Cuyahoga County

Resources for Victims of Crime

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office honors the rights of victims and witnesses of crime, taking seriously our duties to the public and the community. If you are the victim of a crime being prosecuted by our office, we are committed to assisting you throughout the process and to seeking justice for you.

Learn more:

 

Your Rights as a Victim

As a victim, you have a right:
  • To be informed about your rights, available services, victims' compensation, and the name, arrest and release of the defendant
  • To a meaningful dialogue with prosecutors about pretrial diversion, plea negotiations, and changes in charges
  • To be informed of court proceedings, hearing changes, appeals and parole release hearings
  • To be present at hearings and proceedings without undue delay, unless the judge determines it will cause an unfair trial
  • To have someone represent you if you do not want to attend hearings and proceedings
  • To have someone with you for support
  • To have a separate waiting area, if possible, apart from the defendant or the defendant's family
  • To be heard  through a Victim Impact Statement to the prosecutor, judge, probation and parole.

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Your Responsibilities as a Victim

It is important for you to maintain a current address, phone number and email address with law enforcement and the prosecutor's office so that we can keep you informed of your case. If you need to update your contact information, please contact the assistant prosecuting attorney assigned to your case or call our office at (216) 443-7800 during business hours (Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

For some notification services, you must request continued notification of information surrounding a case.

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How Our Office Notifies Victims

Once a case has been presented to our office and we determine there is sufficient evidence to proceed, we present it to a Grand Jury for determination of appropriate charges. The Grand Jury is a private proceeding and is not open to the public. The Grand Jury hears the evidence in the case and decides whether there is probable cause to try the case before a judge or jury. If probable cause is found, the defendant is indicted for the crime(s).

Once a case is indicted, our office will send a letter to any victims listed in the case to notify them of the indictment, inform them of their rights and to request the completion of a Victim Impact Packet to be completed by the victim and returned to our office.

If you have received a Victim Notification and have questions, please call us at (216) 443-7800.

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Victim Witness Advocates

As a victim of crime, you may find yourself involved in the unfamiliar and sometimes complicated environment of the court system at the same time you are dealing with emotional consequences of being a victim of a crime. Our Victim Witness Advocates are here to help you understand your rights, access available services and navigate all stages of your case.

Our advocates help those touched most directly by crime to step forward and feel comfortable and confident in the justice system. These advocates promote victims’ rights as defined in the Ohio Revised Code Chapter 2930, including:

  • The right to be informed about what is happening in their case,
  • The right to be present at hearings and proceedings, and
  • The right to be heard at various stages throughout the justice process. 
Our advocates will assist all victims of crime, with a special emphasis on sexual assault, homicide, domestic violence, and juvenile cases. These dedicated advocates are involved in the case from the beginning to end, and often follow up with victims long after their cases have been resolved.

Services provided by this unit often begin with victim notifications. Advocates are involved upon request, and with all our cold case rape investigations, notifying victims that their assailant has been identified and discussing details of their case. They help victims navigate the criminal justice system and connect them to services available through either the Court or the community.

Advocates work tirelessly to stay in contact with victims and witnesses as prosecutors prepare for trial, and act as a liaison throughout a case. They are always available to answer victim questions and concerns.

Throughout the judicial process, victim advocates accompany the victims or witnesses, providing support when they appear in court.  They are compassionate supporters who accompany survivors to hearings, assist with victim impact statements for sentencing, help file Crime Victim Compensation applications, explain the parole process, and check on their well-being. 

This unit  is integral to restoring and maintaining public confidence in the justice system and ensuring that the voices of all victims are heard.

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Services Available to Victims

Victim Witness Advocates, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office
If you are the victim of a crime and involved in a case being handled by the Prosecutor's Office, you may contact our Victim Witness Advocates to request assistance, or speak with the assistant prosecuting attorney handling your case, who can refer you to one of our advocates.

Phone:
(216) 443-7800

Email: victimnotification@prosecutor.cuyahogacounty.us

Cornerstone of Hope
Cornerstone of Hope provides counseling (individual and group) for children, teens, and adults who have lost a loved one.

Website: www.cornerstoneofhope.org
Phone: (216) 524-4673

Cleveland Rape Crisis Center
The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center offers direct services free of charge to anyone seeking to heal from sexual violence. The CRCC is the only agency in Cuyahoga County that provides free, comprehensive services to women, children and men who have survived sexual violence. Contact the agency at:

Website: www.clevelandrapecrisis.org
24-hour hotline: (216) 619-6192
Email: info@clevelandrcc.org

526 Superior Avenue, Suite 1400
Cleveland, Ohio 44114

Cuyahoga County Witness/Victim Service Center
The Witness/Victim Service Center is a part of the Cuyahoga County Public Safety & Justice Services that promotes and preserves the rights of crime victims. To obtain support and referral information, you can call the Cuyahoga County Witness/Victim Service Center at (216) 443-7345 or visit http://ja.cuyahogacounty.us/en-US/wvsc-new.aspx.

Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center
Advocacy, Counseling Services (Individual/Group), shelter, safety planning.

Website: www.dvcac.org
Domestic Violence Helpline: (216) 391-HELP (216-391-4357)
Family Helpline: (216) 229-8800
General Phone: (216) 229-2420

Frontline Services (formerly Mental Health Services, Inc.)
Crisis intervention, shelter and clinical services that support victims of sexual assault, physical abuse, suicide, and homicide.

Website: www.mhs-inc.org
24-hour crisis hotline: (216) 623-6888

Hospice of the Western Reserve - Grief and Loss Support Services
Hospice staff provide individual counseling for children, youth, adults and families that have experienced a death outside the hospice network. This includes accidental death, non-hospice medical death, homicide and suicide. Services are provided at all Hospice of the Western Reserve offices as well as in the home, at school, the workplace and other community locations. There is a sliding fee scale. No one is denied services because of an inability to pay.

Website: www.hospicewr.org
Phone: 1-800-707-8922

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
MADD provides services to victims of drunk driving accidents.

Website: www.madd.org/victim-services
Northeastern Ohio affiliate phone: (216) 265-9229


Office of Victim Services, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
If you are a victim of crime and the defendant in your case is convicted and sentenced to prison, you can register with Office of Victims' Services at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to receive victim notifications and other services. You may complete victim registration online or contact the office.

Website: www.drc.ohio.gov
Phone: (614) 728-1976 or 1-888-VICTIM4 (1-888-842-8464)
Email: DRC.Victim.Services@odrc.state.oh.us

Ohio Attorney General - Victims of Crime Resources
The Attorney General’s Crime Victim Services Section provides funding and services to aid victims, training for professionals who assist them, grants for victim service providers, and crime prevention programs for Ohio communities.

Crime Victim Section
150 E. Gay St. 25th Floor
Columbus, OH 43215

Website: www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Individuals-and-Families/Victims
Phone: (614) 466-5610  or 1-800-582-2877

Ohio Victims of Crime Compensation Program
Victims of crime may be eligible for compensation. For eligibility information, contact 1-877-5VICTIM (1-877-584-2846) or visit the website of the Ohio Attorney General.

Renee Jones Empowerment Center
216.651.9601
Provides services to Human Trafficking victims and others faced with many adverse challenges, such as poverty, homelessness, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, and drug-abuse.

Website: rjecempower.org
Phone: (216) 651-9601

VINE
You may also register for VINE (Victim Information Notification Every day).  VINE links county jails and statewide correctional facilities to make the status of offenders available 24 hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year. Anyone may call the toll-free VINE hotline to access custody information, available in English and Spanish. Callers may also register directly with VINE to receive telephone notification of changes in custody. A live operator is available 24 hours-a-day to assist callers in accessing information or registering for notification. There is also a mobile application available for free download. Learn more about VINE here.

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Frequent Questions for Victims of Crime

General Questions/Before the Trial

I feel that a crime has been committed.  How do I press charges?  Can I report a crime directly to the Prosecutor’s Office?
Generally, crimes should be reported to the police department or other law enforcement agency which has jurisdiction over the city or county where the crime occurred. (Access a list of law enforcement agencies in Cuyahoga County here.) We do investigate crimes such as public corruption, economic crimes and organized crime. If you believe you have information about any of these types of crimes you wish to report, please contact our office.

I was the victim of a crime and I would like to drop charges. Can I do that?
Only a prosecuting attorney can drop charges. You may discuss your wishes with the prosecutor assigned to the case, but we must consider all factors when determining whether to file, try or dismiss a case.

I received a packet from your office. What do I do with it?
This is the Initial Victim Notification Packet. We ask that you fill the requested information out to the best of your ability and return it to our office. Contact our office with any questions. Information you provide will be forwarded to the appropriate prosecutor.

What services does the Victim Witness Unit provide, and who is eligible?
Our Victim Witness Advocates provide a number of services, from helping witnesses to feel comfortable testifying in court, to referring victims to available services in the community. Anyone can request the assistance of an advocate. Victims and witnesses of violent crimes, sex crimes and crimes against children are most often referred to advocates. Please click here to learn more about our Victim Witness Advocates.

Are there other agencies or services I can seek out for support as a victim of crime?
The Prosecutor’s Office works with several agencies to provide a wide range of services to victims of crime. If you have been assigned a Victim Witness Advocate, he or she can help refer you to available services. You can also click here to learn about other services and agencies that may be helpful for victims of crime.

What are my rights as the victim of a crime?
Please click here to review your rights as a victim of crime.

What are pre-trial hearings? Do I need to attend them?
A pre-trial hearing is a meeting between the defense attorneys and prosecutors to exchange information and prepare for the possibility of trial. Not all pre-trials take place in the courtroom. Victims are not required to attend all pre-trials. If you plan to attend a pre-trial, we suggest that you speak with the prosecutor and/or your victim advocate to confirm the date and time of the meeting.

What is a protection order, and how can I get one?
There are several different types of protection orders that exist to help protect victims of crime. Temporary protection orders can be issued as part of a criminal prosecution in certain types of cases and expire when the case is closed. There are also several types of civil protection orders, which are issued in response to a petition by a victim. These orders can help protect victims of crimes such as domestic violence, stalking, sexually oriented offenses, other specific crimes, and certain offenses committed by a juvenile. Depending on the offense, your relationship to the offender (or lack thereof) and the degree of protection you seek, there are differences in how, when and where you need to file a petition. There are also differences in what the protection order may include and how long it lasts. If you wish to request a protection order, you may find it helpful to discuss this with one of our Victim Witness Advocates, or an advocate at a domestic violence or sexual assault crisis center. They can help explain your options. There is also a thorough summary of the different types of protection orders published in the 2013 edition of the Self-Help Legal Manual for Survivors of Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence and Stalking published by the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (see pages 7-14 of this PDF).

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During the Trial

How can I get in touch with the prosecuting attorney working on my case?
If you received a Victim Notification letter, it will contain a case number and information about the assistant prosecuting attorney assigned to your case. You can also call our office at (216) 443-7800 and request information about your case. Be sure to have the case number or defendant’s name available when you call.

How do I find out when a defendant is set for court?
For cases proceeding through the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, you can visit the Clerk of Courts' website and search the court dockets by defendant’s name or case number to see the next court action. Because courts schedules are subject to change, it is a good idea to confirm court dates and times with the assistant prosecuting attorney assigned to your case, especially if you plan to attend a proceeding.

Will I be contacted if there is a plea agreement?
Yes. Victims have the right to be informed of plea agreements and court proceedings throughout the case.

What is a subpoena? What should I do if I receive one?
A subpoena is a court order directing a person to appear in court. If you receive a subpoena, you are legally obligated to appear in court at the date and time indicated. If you believe that you cannot appear when subpoenaed, call our office as soon as possible.

I have been called to testify in a trial. What are my responsibilities as a witness, and how should I prepare for court?
The prosecutor and/or victim witness advocate will help you prepare to testify by answering your questions, discussing case details and familiarizing you with the courtroom. If you are nervous about testifying, don't hesitate to reach out to the prosecutor on your case or a victim advocate. Here are some helpful tips for preparing to testify in court:

  • Dress conservatively and be courteous. Wear clothing that will not distract the judge or jury from what you have to say.
  • Don’t try to memorize your testimony; you should be natural and be yourself. Remember that the judge and jurors rely on you to be honest and direct so they can make a decision.
  • When it is time to testify, remember that the most important rule is to tell the truth, no matter what. Don’t try to adjust your answers or tell half-truths to help or hurt one side or another. Don't allow your personal opinion of the case to change your testimony. It is the jury's or judge’s role to determine guilt or innocence; your role is simply to explain what you witnessed.
  • When an attorney asks you a question, listen carefully. If you do not hear or understand a question, ask for it to be repeated or clarified – don’t guess at an answer. Answer only the question asked of you, simply and directly, then stop. If you don’t know the answer to a question, or don’t remember a detail you are asked about, just say that you do not know or do not remember. If you make a mistake when answering a question, correct it immediately.
  • It is important to speak clearly and loudly so that the judge, jury and court reporter can hear and understand what you have to say. Don’t nod or shake your head to answer a question – be sure to say “yes” or “no” so that the court reporter can correctly record your statements. If you cannot truthfully answer with a “yes” or “no,” you can and should explain your answer.
  • If you are a witness for the prosecution, know that the defense attorneys may try to question your credibility. Do not lose your temper. It is also important to be serious while you are on the witness stand. A courtroom is not a place for jokes, and you could be misunderstood if you try to be sarcastic or cute.
  • If an attorney raises an objection while you are testifying, or if the judge speaks, stop speaking and do not try to finish your answer. Listen to the objection so that you understand why it is being made, and follow any instructions the judge gives you.
  • Be aware that the defendant will be in the courtroom at all times and you will be asked to identify him or her. This is easier to deal with if you prepare beforehand. You may have friends or family accompany you, and they can sit in the courtroom while you testify, unless they are also witnesses. (Witnesses testify one at a time and generally wait outside the courtroom for their turn). A Victim Witness Advocate may also be with you, if you request.
Who will be in the courtroom?
Court personnel will be in the room: The judge, the bailiff (who provides administrative support and manages the courtroom), a court reporter (who records testimony and court proceedings), the defendant(s) and defense attorneys, the prosecuting attorneys, and in jury trials, the jury and sheriff's deputies who provide security.

Courtrooms are open to the public. The seats in the back of the room, called the "gallery," may have members of the public. Judges usually are conducting several cases throughout the day; there may be people in the courtroom waiting for their case to be heard. There may be people present who support the defendant, or who support victims. Witnesses for either side are not permitted to observe full court proceedings and are not in the room when not testifying. Children are not permitted in courtrooms. Cell phones, food and beverages are not permitted. Judges can have anyone who does not follow their courtroom rules removed from the room.

In some instances, reporters, camera operators and other members of the media may be present. As a victim, you can request that your image, voice and name not be recorded by the media. The victim advocate and prosecuting attorney will work with the judge to communicate this request to the media.

What should I do if I am contacted by a defense attorney or an investigator for the defendant?
As the victim of a crime, it is possible that defense attorneys or investigators might contact you wanting to discuss the case. While you are free to speak about the case with anyone you choose, you also have a right not to speak with the defense if you do not wish to -- the decision is up to you.

If you don’t want to speak to the defense, you can refer the defense attorney to our office for any information he/she wants and decline to discuss the case.

If you decide to discuss the case with the defense attorney or investigator, it is a good idea to let the assistant prosecuting attorney handling your case know that you plan to do so. He or she may ask to accompany you to meet with the defense.

I’m not sure I can talk about what happened to me. Do I have to testify?
If you receive a subpoena, you are legally obligated to testify in court. As prosecutors, we understand that the ordeal of being the victim of a crime can be difficult to revisit. It is our duty to bring justice to those who perpetrate crimes, however, and in doing so to prevent others from getting hurt. Your testimony as a victim may be critical to convicting the person who hurt you. We are committed to making the process of testifying as comfortable as possible for you. Victim Witness Advocates from our office or from other available agencies can help you prepare to take the stand and can support you in the courtroom. The assistant prosecuting attorneys assigned to your case are also committed to advocating for you throughout the trial.

Must I face the person who hurt me in court?
The defendant must be present in court to hear what all the witnesses say about him/her as a matter of Constitutional rights. The judge, prosecuting attorneys and advocates will ensure that you are not mistreated or intimidated by the defendant.

What is a Victim Impact Statement? What am I supposed to say in it?
A Victim Impact Statement is a report -- either written or oral -- that helps judges understand the damage caused by a defendant's crime. It can include economic, physical, and/or psychological harm. Consider how the crime affected you or your family, challenges associated with the crime, and any requests or feelings you have about how the defendant should be sentenced. You can be present to read your victim impact statement to the judge, or if you prefer, you can have a friend or family member, victim advocate or prosecuting attorney read the statement on your behalf. You may also submit a written statement to the judge and request that it not be read in open court.

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After Conviction

What happens at sentencing? Can I make a statement?
As a victim, you have the right to make a statement at the sentencing hearing before the judge delivers his or her sentence. The assistant prosecuting attorney handling your case can assist you in preparing to make your statement. If you wish, a Victim Witness Advocate and/or family and friends can also attend the sentencing to support you. If the news media have expressed an interest in the case, they may be present at the sentencing to record proceedings. The judge may ask them not to record victims' faces or voices.

How do I find out when a particular prisoner will be released from prison or jail?
Register with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Office of Victim Services and sign up to receive alerts through VINE. Once you register, you will be alerted to any changes in incarceration status.

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