About the Victim Services Unit

The Victim Services Unit provides an array of services to felony crime victims and their families and informs victims of their rights as guaranteed under the Rhode Island Constitution and the Victim's Bill of Rights.

Advocates are assigned to victims and their families to provide guidance and support through the criminal justice process - informing them of their rights, notifying them of the status of the offender’s case, providing personal assistance at court appearances and helping them better understand and participate in the legal process. In addition, the Unit provides referrals to other victim-service provider agencies and support groups that can further assist victims with financial, legal, medical and emotional problems resulting from the crime. Unit advocates also assist prosecutors with all victim-related matters.

In performing these services, the staff works closely with highly traumatized victims and families in homicide, driving death, child molestation, sexual assault, human trafficking and domestic violence cases as well as other felony cases – answering questions, overcoming fears, explaining court procedures, notifying victims of the status of the offender’s case, sharing concerns, addressing safety issues, assessing overall needs and accompanying victims to court proceedings.

Advocates are assigned to assist victims and their families through the various stages of the criminal justice process – bail hearing, pre-arraignment/arraignment, violation hearing, grand jury, pretrial, trial, appellate and post-conviction process. The Unit also collaborates with other agencies - RI Department of Probation and Parole, RI Parole Board, Superior Court Restitution Unit and RI Department of Corrections Office of Victim Services - in an effort to provide a seamless transition for victims at the conclusion of the Superior Court process.

Notification Process

Once a case has been charged as a felony in Superior Court, victims will be assigned an advocate from the Victim Services Team. The Team member will guide victims (and approved legal guardians/significant others) through the criminal justice process and will notify victims of the status of the defendant's case. We are available to explain procedures and events as they arise, and our staff will be available to assist victims when they appear in court.

Victims will receive written notification regarding significant court events from the time of the initial court event though the final disposition of the defendant's case.

Victims should expect to receive written notification of the first scheduled court event at the point when the Attorney General's Office officially files a felony information in a defendant's case in Superior Court. The notification will be mailed to the victim's last-known address as provided by the investigating police department. The first notice a victim may receive is the notification of the initial court event, which is called a pre-arraignment conference or an arraignment. Along with the notification, the victim will receive a Victim Impact Statement form, which must be completed and returned prior to the first pre-arraignment conference or the arraignment.

In cases where a defendant is charged with a felony/capital offense, the initial court date is usually a bail hearing. The victim will receive notification of the bail hearing date, and the notice will also indicate whether the victim's presence is required. At the completion of the District Court Bail Hearing process, victims will then receive notification when the grand jury returns an indictment and the defendant is scheduled to be arraigned in the Superior Court.

Please note: notices do not go out for every court event. Victims should contact our office to update address/phone number if it is different from the information contained in the police report. Click here to complete the Victim Services change of address form.

Restraining Order/No Contact Order

No Contact Order
A No Contact Order (NCO) is issued by the Court as a condition of the defendant's bail while the case is pending and as a condition of the defendant's sentence/probation at the time of the final disposition of the case. The NCO will remain in full force and effect until the expiration of the defendent's sentence/probation.

Temporary Restraining Order
A temporary restraining order (TRO) is a document that you may request from a court if you have been threatened, physically or sexually assaulted, stalked or cyberstalked/cyberharassed. A TRO orders your abuser to stay away from you. It is a civil – not criminal – action which does not involve the police unless the defendant violates the TRO.

NCOs and TROs can only be issued by the court system. The Office of Attorney General cannot assist individuals in obtaining NCOs or TROs.

Below are outside resources that may assist you:
Elizabeth Buffum Chace Center - Common Questions About Protective Orders
Rhode Island Courts - Information for Victims of Domestic Violence

Compensation/Restitution

Compensation
If you or a family member have been an innocent victim of a violent crime, the Rhode Island Crime Victim Compensation Program may be able to help you with some of the expenses resulting from the crime. While no amount of financial compensation can erase the painful memories of a violent crime, this program can help ease some of the burdens you face as a result.

The Crime Victim Compensation Program is operated by the Office of the General Treasurer. To learn more about the program, to see if you are eligible for compensation, or to fill out an application for compensation, please call (401) 462-7655 or click here.

The Program can assist you with crime-related expenses which are not covered by insurance or other resources up to $25,000. Expenses may include medical bills, funeral and burial costs, loss of earnings, or mental health counseling. The program will only provide compensation in cases involving personal injury or death. Property losses are not covered.

It is important to file your claim as soon as possible after the crime occurs. If you fail to file a claim within the time allowed under current law, you may not be eligible to receive compensation.

Restitution
The term "restitution" in the criminal justice system means payment by an offender to the victim for the harm caused by the offender's wrongful acts. The Rhode Island Courts, not the Office of Attorney General, have the authority to order convicted offenders to pay restitution to victims as part of their sentences.

If Restitution was ordered as part of the defendant’s sentence, you may contact the Superior Court Restitution Unit at (401) 222-2084. Please allow time for the Restitution Office to receive and process the case information.

The difference between restitution and civil damages
Restitution, as noted above, is ordered by a criminal court after the offender has been found guilty. Civil damages are ordered when someone has won a lawsuit in civil court. Victims of crime can obtain both restitution and civil damages. A victim can sue an offender even when the offender has been ordered to pay restitution. Civil damages can include losses not covered by restitution, such as payment for pain and suffering, payment for intentional infliction of emotional distress, and even punitive damages (damages imposed just to punish the defendant).

Please note: the Office of Attorney General cannot provide you with legal advice or legal referrals. If you are seeking answers to legal questions, need someone to help you find a law or case, or need someone to take your case to court, you will need to find a private attorney. For information on choosing and using a lawyer, you may wish to visit the Rhode Island Bar Association’s website.

Resources for Victims

RI-VINE
RI-VINE (Rhode Island Victim Information and Notification Everyday) is an automated service that lets victims track the custody status of offenders in the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. By calling the toll-free number (1-877-744-7463) or visiting the website, victims can find out the custody status of an offender. They may also register to be notified by phone or email if the custody status of an inmate changes. RI-VINE will notify regarding the following events: release, tranfers, escape, or death of an inmate.

You may register through the website or by calling (877) 744-7463.

VINE is a free service offered by the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. The Rhode Island Statewide VINE Service Number is (877) 744-8463.

Rhode Island Parole Board
Rhode Island General Law (12-28-6) specifically gives victims the opportunity to address the Rhode Island Parole Board regarding the impact of the crime.

Input from victims is very important to the Parole Board's decision-making process. It helps the Board appreciate and understand the effects of the crime on victims. Testimony from the victim often provides information that might not otherwise be available to the Board.

Rhode Island Victim Assistance Portal
The Rhode Island Victim Assistance Portal (RI-VAP) is a secure web portal that serves victims of crime in Rhode Island (or approved guardians/significant others) with a broad range of information relevant to their offender's case. The information includes court events, incarceration status and status of court-ordered restitution on misdemeanor cases. The Victim Services Team and RI Justice Assistance are the portal's administrators.

Rhode Island Victims of Crime 24-hour Hotline: 1-800-494-8100

Day One - Sexual Assault and Trauma Center
(401) 421-4100

Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence
(401) 467-9940

Rhode Island Sex Offender Community Notification Unit
(401) 462-0905

Institute for the Study of and Practice of Nonviolence
(401) 785-2320

Family Service of RI
(401) 331-1350