Colorado law provides victims of certain designated crimes with important rights under something called the Victim’s Rights Act. In these cases, there are mandatory procedures that guide the flow of information between our office and a crime victim. You can learn more about the “VRA” at this website for the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice: https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/dcj/victim-rights.
In addition to those rights, it is a critical part of the mission of our office to guide crime victims through the often confusing and complicated criminal justice process with dignity and respect. Although by law our office represents the State of Colorado, not the victim, we consider it our obligation to ensure crime victims are appropriately informed and are provided with accurate, timely and reality-based ‘counsel’ from the office prosecuting their case. Our primary way of doing that is through our victim/witness coordinators. Our “V/W” staff is specifically here to act as a point of contact between crime victims and our office. They can answer most questions and provide important information – the V/W coordinator in the county where the case is pending should be your first call if you have any questions or concerns.
In addition to working with our V/W coordinators, most often, a crime victim will also have direct contact with the prosecuting attorney assigned to the case. Due to their lawyer responsibilities in many cases, they generally do not get involved with scheduling questions or other logistical matters – this is the primary responsibility of the V/W coordinators. However, on questions such as whether a case should be resolved by plea agreement or go to trial, and what factors go into that decision, and on other topics involving substantive legal issues and the complicated rules governing a criminal prosecution, our prosecutors communicate directly with the victim.
Victim’s Compensation Applications
One of the most important services we can provide crime victims is helping them process a claim to the 14th Judicial District’s Victim Compensation Fund.
This fund is created by state law, and it is intended to help expedite getting crime victims reimbursed for expenses directly related to the crime: Medical bills, lost wages, repair/replacement costs, counseling services and security measures are all things for which a victim can apply for reimbursement. Critical to this process is keeping all bills, receipts etc., and in following the directions of the V/W coordinator helping the victim submit the claim.
If you are eligible for “Victim’s Comp”, a letter will be sent to you by our coordinator. If you lost the form, please contact the office in the county where your matter is pending and the coordinator can provide you a new one.
Community Based Support Services
Being a crime victim can be a traumatic and scary experience, and in cases of domestic violence or sexual assault that is always true. In addition to the services our office can provide, a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault can access important support services from local community based advocates.
These organizations provide fully confidential emotional support, safety planning and other supportive services.
Victim Access to Discovery
Under Colorado law, a crime victim within the scope of the Victim’s Rights Act can receive a copy of the initial incident report from the investigating law enforcement agency, at the discretion of that agency – it can be withheld if necessary due to the status of the case or security and safety concerns in a detention facility.
Generally, our office discourages a crime victim reviewing any discovery material other than copies of their own statements. This is because in the litigation process, it is the better practice to avoid witnesses being exposed to what other witnesses said, to ensure each witness is only reciting information they gained first-hand, rather than their memories or perceptions being influenced, even unconsciously, by what others said.
If you are a crime victim and want to view discovery, you should notify the V/W coordinator assigned to your case, who can discuss the matter with the assigned prosecutor, and one of them will get back to you.
Under Colorado law, every person charged with a crime is required to be served with a Mandatory Protection Order (“MPO”) at their first appearance before a judge. The restrictions imposed in the restraining order will always include, at a minimum, that the person accused refrain from harassing or intimidating or retaliating against any victim of or witness to the charged events. The other options for the judge include ordering the defendant to have no contact of any kind, direct or indirect, with the named victim; ordering the defendant to vacate the home of the victim and stay away from anyplace the victim is likely to be found; ordering the defendant to refrain from the use of alcohol or controlled substances; prohibiting the defendant from possessing a firearm, ammunition or other weapon.
Any victim who believes there has been a violation of an MPO should report the matter to their local law enforcement agency immediately. If you are a victim and you do not have a copy of your MPO, you can and should contact the V/W coordinator handling your case and they can provide you a copy.
The V/W coordinators for our three counties can be reached at:
- Grand County – Karen Nieto – 970-725-3371
- Routt County – Breann Dale – 970-870-5200
- Moffat County – Alejandra Ledesma – 970-824-7041
If a party wants to modify the MPO (victim or defendant), that person must notify the Court and the opposing party. The judge will then decide if the MPO will be modified. If you are a victim, you can contact our V/W coordinator handling your case about modifying an MPO, or you can follow the instructions and complete and submit our “Request to Modify Protection Order”. If you are a defendant without an attorney, you should consult an attorney…. If you decide not to have an attorney, you will need to submit your request in writing to the clerk of court in the county where you case is pending, and you will need to serve a copy of the written request to our office. UNLESS AND UNTIL A JUDGE CHANGES A PROTECTION ORDER, IT REMAINS AS ISSUED, NO MATTER WHAT THE PARTIES WANT – AS A COURT ORDER, IT MUST BE FOLLOWED UNLESS AND UNTIL IT IS MODIFIED.
In addition to the mandatory protection order that issues in all criminal cases, Colorado provides other types of civil or private restraining orders. Our office cannot ‘represent’ anyone in an application for a civil restraining order, but we can refer you to appropriate support services or help you understand the process.
You can find information about civil or private restraining orders here: www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/Forms_List.cfm?Form_Type_ID=24.