Victim Compensation | Glossary of Criminal Justice System Terms | Suggestions for Witnesses Going to Court
Also see our "Guidelines for Surviving the Criminal Justice System."
Any person in the State of Tennessee who is a victim of a crime that results in personal injury - physical or emotional - may be entitled to:
An attorney is not required, but if assistance is needed in filing for Victims Compensation, an attorney may be obtained at no cost to the victim.
- Reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses for:
- Medical care
- Psychological counseling
- Funeral expenses
- Lost wages
- A lump sum payment for permanent physical disability.
- Compensation for pain and suffering for victims of rape or other sexual crimes.
- Referrals for counseling if you are the victim of sexual assault/abuse, domestic violence, drunk driving, child abuse, assault or homicide.
To qualify for compensation, you must report your crime to the appropriate local law enforcement agency within 48 hours of the crime. Furthermore, your claim must be filed within one year of the commission of the crime.
It does not cost you anything to file for compensation. Compensation given to victims of crime does not come from tax dollars; it is paid for by criminals.
If you have any questions about whether you are eligible for compensation, or if you want any other information, contact your local Victim-Witness Coordinator.
Glossary of Criminal Justice System Terms
- APPEAL - Convicted defendants have a right to appeal their convictions and sentences to higher courts. These courts examine the record made of the trial proceedings to determine if a reversible error has occured. If a higher court finds that serious errors occured in the trial proceedings it may remand the case for a new trial or even dismiss the charges. Although most appeals are unsuccessful, the process is often very lengthy. Appeals are handled by the State Attorney General's Office.
- ARRAIGNMENT - The first scheduled appearance by the defendant in Criminal of Circuit Court. The indictment returned by the grand jury is read and the defendant is given a copy. Arrangements are made for an attorney for the defendant and a trial date may be set. Victim's appearance not necessary.*
- BAIL - An amount paid or pledged by the defendant to make sure he or she will appear in court.
- GRAND JURY - An independent group of private citizens who listen to information about the crime in order to decide whether the case shouldgo to trial. Victim's appearnace only if subpoenaed or requested.*
- INDICTMENT - If the grand jurors decide that a case should go to trial, they "return" an endictment or presentment charging the defendant with the crime or crimes he/she may have committed.
- MOTIONS HEARINGS - ?????
- OTHER RELEASE STATUS - Contact Department of Corrections to requestnotification on other releases (escape, sentence expiration, work release, etc.)
- PAROLE - "Parole" is the release of a person from prison before the end of his/her sentence, under certain conditions or restrictions which must be met or the person will be returned to prison. You may request to be notified by the Board of Parole ofhearing dates and Board decisions prior to an individual's release.
- PLEA AGREEMENT - Sometimes inaccurately called "plea bargaining," this is a term used to describe a method of disposing of case without a trial. Most defendants plead guilty. Once a defendant decides to plead guilty, it is up to the District Attorney's Office and the defendant's attorney to work out an agreement to present to the judge. The defendant may agree to plead guilty to the crime(s) charged or to a lesser offense, and there may be an agreement that the District Attorney's Office will recommend a sentence to the judge. The judge may accept or reject the plea. Although you will not have the final say as to what sentence is given, the District Attorney's Office is interested in your viewpoint.
- PRELIMINARY HEARING - A hearing, usually in general sessions court, to determine if there is areason to believe that a crime has been committed and that the defendant committed it. If so, the case will be "bound over" to the grand jury. Victim's appearance required only if subpoenaed or requested.*
- SENTENCING HEARING - After a defendant's guilty plea is accepted or he/she is found guilty after a trail, the judge decides what happens. The defendant may be sent to prison or jail, or the sentence may be "suspended" and the defendant put on probation. Probation means the defendant is left free as long as he or she does what the judge has to hold him to do. He or she may als obe placed in other programs, such as "Community Corrections."*
- TRIAL - The court proceeding in which the District Attorney, or an Assistant District Attorney, presents the case for the State, attempting to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime as charged. The defendant may present proof to dispute the State's claim. Usually the defendant chooses whether a judge or a twelve person petit jury will decide the case.
- VICTIM'S COMPENSATION - Tennessee law provides compensation for victims of violent crimes, or their dependants, who have suffered out-of-pocket losses due to physical injury, loss of income, or death. Contact the Division of Claims Administration or the Victim/Witness Coordinator in your District Attorney's Office for additional information.
- VICTIM'S IMPACT STATEMENT - You may be given the opportunity to provide a written impact statement to be submitted by a probation officer as part of the presentence report to be reviewed by the court prior to sentencing. If you wish to make an oral statement at the time of sentencing, please contact the District Attorney's office prior to the hearing.
- WARRANT - A written order from a judge that a person be arrested. If you are a victim or a witness, the warrant is based on a written statement about the crime in which you were involved.
- *Even though you are not required to be present, you may come if you wish. Contact the District Attorney's Office for times and dates.
Suggestions for Witnesses Going to Court
- Have a neat appearance and proper dress.
- Don't worry if you are nervous; it's common.
- You will be asked to take an oath to tell the truth. Remember the seriousness of this oath the entire time.
- TELL THE TRUTH. Even a minor fabrication can discredit a witness and weaken a case.
- Be serious. Avoid laughing or being flipant.
- Do not argue with the lawyer. Be courteous, even if he is not.
- If you do not understand a question, tell the attorney or judge and ask him to explain. If you do not remember an answer, SAY that you cannot remember.
- Listen carefully to the questions. Take your time. Do not give a snap answer without thinking. Speak clearly so that you will be heard.
- Stay away from the jurors during recesses. Politely but firmly avoid letting jurors talk to you.
- Once you have been sworn in, do not discuss your testimony with other witnesses.