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Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have a right to speak at a sentencing hearing after the defendant is convicted?

After the defendant enters a guilty plea or is convicted, you have a right to ask about the sentencing recommendation and to be advised of the sentencing hearing. Before the judge sentences a felony offender, you have the right to make a statement to the court. Your Victim Witness Center can help you with this.

What is an appeal?

Defendants who are not satisfied with the outcome of the trial or the judge's decision can appeal their case. When they appeal, they ask a higher court to change what the trial court decided. The Court of Appeal reviews the trial court record to decide if legal errors were made. The Court of Appeal or California Supreme Court may change or "modify" a decision. If a Court of Appeal or the California Supreme Court reverses a conviction, there may be a new trial. If there is a new trial, crime victims and witnesses may have to come back to court and testify again.

If you want to know if your case is being appealed, or want to know the status of an appeal, contact our Office.

Can I get compensation and restitution as a crime victim?

You (or your next of kin) may ask the court for money for losses you suffered because of the crime. This is called restitution and is paid by the defendant. You have the right to be compensated for some crime-related losses, such as personal injury, counseling, lost wages, medical bills, and funeral and burial expenses.

The judge should also order the offender to pay a restitution fine. The fine can be from $200 to $10,000. The money from this fine goes to fund the Victim Compensation Program.

Restitution does not compensate for "pain and suffering" or "emotional distress." If you want this type of compensation, you must contact a civil lawyer.

What if the defendant cannot pay restitution and I have no insurance?

In California, many victims of crime, their families, their loved ones and witnesses have the right to compensation. You can file a claim right away with the Victim Compensation Program. You don't have to wait for the offender to be arrested. Compensation is available for: mental health treatment and counseling; medical or dental expenses for the victim; lost wages or income; burial or funeral expenses; moving or relocation expenses; job retraining for a disabled victim; home or vehicle renovation or retrofitting for a permanently disabled victim; and financial support to care for the dependents of a victim who died or became disabled.

The expenses (or loss) must be related to the crime, and cannot be covered by another source (like insurance, your employer, the defendant).

The program does not compensate anyone who committed or contributed to the crime, does not cooperate with law enforcement to prosecute the case, does not file an application for compensation, and files a late application without good reason for delay.

For more information contact us, your local Victim Witness Office or the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.

How do I know when the offender will get out of prison?

The actual time an offender serves depends on the sentence, time credits and time served in local jail. If the offender is in local jail, the Victim Witness Center in your county can give you an idea of when the offender will get out. If the offender is in a state prison, contact the Department of Corrections.

What is parole?

When the offender gets out of prison, he is placed on parole. During that time, a state parole agent will supervise the offender.

Inmates sentenced to a life term (15 years-to-life, or 25 years-to-life, for example) are given a Minimum Eligible Parole Date (MEPD). The inmate has a parole hearing approximately 13 months before the MEPD. The victim can ask the Board of Parole Hearings or the Department of Corrections what the MEPD is.

Can I go to the parole hearing and can I make a statement?

If you want to go to the hearing, you must ask the Board of Parole Hearings. To be notified of the hearing you must complete a form stating you want to be notified. You may do this through your Victim Witness Center, the Department of Corrections or the Board of Parole Hearings.

Only victims, next of kin and immediate family members can speak at parole hearings. Generally, the Board of Parole Hearings will let two people speak. Those eligible to speak include a spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters, grandchildren and grandparents.

How can I protect myself from the inmate when he is released?

Depending on the kind of case, the Department of Corrections may be able to help you. Upon your request, they may place special conditions on the parolee. Some examples of special conditions are: stay outside of a 35-mile radius of the victim's home; no contact with the victim or next of kin (no calls, e-mails, letters, personal visits, or indirect contact); or out-of-county placement. Also, you may ask the prison agencies to notify you if the inmate escapes or dies.

Victims Needing Information - Call Toll-Free 1-877-433-9069

DEATH PENALTY BACKGROUND INFO

View Background - People v. Michael Angelo Morales, pdf. In addition to information on the death penalty in California, this document provides factual descriptions and background in the case of Michael Angelo Morales, who was convicted by a Ventura County jury in 1983 and sentenced to be executed. Morales has petitioned the Governor for a granting of clemency. The background information includes a factual descriptions of the crime, photographs of the victim, victim impact statements from family members and a case chronology

View Background - People v. Clarence Ray Allen, pdf. In addition to information on capital punishment in California, this document provides factual descriptions of the multiple violent felony crimes for which Clarence Ray Allen was convicted and executed; a chronology of the litigation in this case; photographs of the victims; and victim impact statements from family members.

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