The Victim Services Unit, located in the Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, helps to ensure fair and compassionate treatment for crime victims. We will assist you in understanding the steps involved in bringing cases to trial and with the services available to help you during this difficult time.
Because we understand how important and necessary you are to the criminal justice system, the Newport News Victim Services Unit has been established to help you deal with the impact of crime. We are here to answer your questions, to offer assistance in relieving some of the injury or inconvenience a crime can cause, and to serve you in any way we can.
We understand that not all crime victims or witnesses want to be involved in the court system; some may wish the case would disappear entirely. If that is true for you, know that you are not alone, and many others have been in your position. Participation of victims and witnesses is essential to maintaining safe communities, and we are here to support you throughout this process.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office prosecutes all felony violations of state criminal laws. Felonies include crimes such as Murders, Sexual Assaults, most Drug Distributions, Robberies, and other violent crimes.
The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office also prosecutes some misdemeanor violations of state criminal laws. The misdemeanor violations our office handles are:
Other misdemeanors not listed above are not prosecuted by our office. In misdemeanor criminal cases under state code that are not being prosecuted by our office, the Court will still hear testimony from the victim and any witnesses and will make a decision about the defendant’s guilt or innocence. But there will be no prosecutor in court for those misdemeanors.
In order to present any case, witnesses must appear in-person at court and testify. Frequently, victims of a crime must testify in order to bring justice for themselves and for the safety of their communities. Also, persons who witness a crime or who simply know a fact relevant to a crime will also need to come to court and testify. Every day dozens of citizens successfully testify in the courts of Newport News, which helps keep their neighborhoods safe. Community safety is a partnership that requires citizens to participate in the court process.
In Virginia, Employers are required by law to excuse their employees’ absences to attend court pursuant to a subpoena. A subpoena is a court order that requires attendance in-person under penalty of law. If you are unavailable on the date of your subpoena, reach out to our office and we will try to accommodate your schedule.
If you don’t know what case or incident your subpoena is referencing, feel free to contact us.
Sometimes victims may want criminal charges to be dropped or dismissed. However, the decision to prosecute a case does not rest solely with the victim. Our office represents all citizens of Newport News and must pursue justice to help ensure a safe community for everyone. We want to support and work with victims and witnesses to ensure fair outcomes, but we cannot always drop charges at a victim’s request.
Many victims of domestic assault are surprised at the options available for ending a case, including probation and counseling, that allow for reconciliation while still promoting justice. Working alongside us can help you achieve an outcome that is fair under the unique circumstances of your situation. You can find more information by contacting a victim-witness advocate.
It’s important to understand that our primary role is to promote community safety, not necessarily to represent the wishes of any one individual.
The Virginia Crime Victim and Witness Rights Act, sometimes called the Victims Bill of Rights, can be found in Virginia Code Section 19.2-11.01. The purpose of this law is to ensure that crime victims are informed of their rights, treated with dignity, respect, and sensitivity, and have their privacy protected to the extent possible by law.
Among other things, this law says that victims are entitled to a private waiting room for court proceedings, financial assistance in some circumstances, notice of all hearings, to give input on any proposed plea agreements, and to be heard at sentencing.
Additionally, under Virginia law (Virginia Code § 18.2-465.1) it is unlawful for an employer to penalize an employee for appearing in court pursuant to a summons or subpoena.
While the law provides victims with many legal protections, it does not give victims the right to drop charges or refuse to attend court pursuant to a lawful subpoena.
Criminal charges usually begin with an investigation by a law enforcement agency, such as the Newport News Police Department or Virginia State Police. At the conclusion of their investigation, the agency may forward their investigation to us for prosecution. Or, if the agency determines there is insufficient evidence to proceed, the agency may decline to forward the case for prosecution.
Less serious criminal charges may be issued by a magistrate upon the sworn testimony of a victim or witness, without the involvement of law enforcement.
To initiate a criminal investigation, you may contact the Newport News police department.
Commonwealth’s Attorneys and their assistants prosecute crimes that occur within their city or county. In some other states, this is referred to as the “District Attorney” or “State’s Attorney.” Commonwealth’s Attorneys represent the public by prosecuting criminal cases in order to promote community safety.
This is a hearing where the defendant is brought before the court to advise about whether he has hired a lawyer or wishes to have one appointed, and to schedule the next hearing. This is often the first court appearance that happens in a case.
This is a hearing conducted in most felony cases, to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold a full trial. If the judge finds that there is, the matter will go before the grand jury. After that, a trial date may be scheduled in the Circuit Court.
This is a hearing where the Defendant asks the Judge to be released from jail prior to his trial. Victims of crime are entitled to be notified about bond hearings, and to be heard at the hearing if they wish. The judge will hear arguments from both sides, but the ultimate decision of whether a defendant gets released from jail prior to trial rests with the Judge.
The Newport News Commonwealth’s Attorney prosecutes criminal cases that occur within the City of Newport News, on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth. The elected Commonwealth’s Attorney is Mr. Howard E. Gwynn.