Victim/Witness Services

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This directive is for internal use only and does not enlarge an employee’s civil liability in any way. The directive should not be construed as creating a higher duty of care, in an evidentiary sense, with respect to third party civil claims against employees. Violations of this directive, if proven, can only form the basis of a complaint by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office for non-judicial administrative action in accordance with the rules and laws governing employee discipline.
DIRECTIVE TYPE: Policy SUBJECT: Victim/Witness Services NUMBER: OPER-312.00
APPROVED BY: Sheriff Ken Christesen EFFECTIVE DATE: 7/16/2017
NMLEA STANDARDS: ADM.24.01 - ADM.24.03 LAST MODIFIED: 5/25/2017 LAST REVIEW: 5/25/2017


PURPOSE:


The Victims of Crimes Act assures that the full impact of a crime is brought to the attention of a court; that victims of violent crimes are treated with dignity, respect and sensitivity at all stages of the criminal justice process; and that victims’ rights are protected by law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and judges as vigorously as are the rights of criminal defendants. This policy establishes the procedures required of employees to fulfill the Sheriff’s Office obligation in the Victims of Crime Act.


POLICY:


The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office will comply with all applicable provisions of the Victims of Crime Act. This compliance extends beyond the requirement of adhering to state statute to include furthering the Sheriff’s Office Mission Statement in regards to maintaining professionalism and compassion.


DEFINITIONS:


The following definitions will apply for the purposes of this policy:


  • Criminal Offense – Only those crimes defined in 31-26-3 NMSA 1978.


  • Victim – An individual against whom a criminal offense is committed. A victim also means a family member or victim’s representative when the individual against whom a criminal offense was committed is a minor, is incompetent, or is a homicide victim.


PROCEDURE:


SUMMARY OF THE RIGHTS OF VICTIMS (ADM.24.01)


Chapter 31, Article 26 NMSA 1978, (“Victims of Crime Act”), implements Article 2, Section 24 of the Constitution of New Mexico by providing certain rights to victims through a cooperative effort between the courts, law enforcement, and the prosecuting attorney. These rights apply from the time a formal charge is filed and remain in effect until the final court disposition. At times, a victim or the court may designate a representative to exercise all rights afforded to him or her.


To satisfy their responsibilities of the Victims of Crime Act, the Sheriff’s Office and deputies should:


  • Treat all victims with fairness and respect for their dignity and privacy;
  • Take proper enforcement action when confronted with criminal activity;
  • Notify a victim of all court proceedings. (This applies up until the District Attorney’s Office has formally taken the case.);
  • Promptly return any property belonging to the victim that is being held for evidentiary purposes by the Sheriff’s Office unless there are compelling evidentiary reasons for retention of the property; and
  • Provide a victim with information regarding medical and crisis intervention services, incident report numbers, and contact information for the district attorney’s office.


Victims of identity theft may obtain an identity theft passport from the New Mexico attorney general. If presented with such, Sheriff’s Office personnel will accept this as evidence of identity.


Pursuant to 30-24-3 NMSA 1978, witnesses have the right to be free from bribery, intimidation, and retaliation. The Sheriff’s Office will investigate any such claims of such conduct occurring within its jurisdiction and charge when appropriate.


INITIAL RESPONSE (ADM.24.02 (F))


The primary concern when responding to calls for service is to safeguard life. Deputies are responsible for securing a scene to protect lives and ensure safety. Once a scene is determined to be stable, deputies are encouraged to develop a supportive presence by providing reassurance to the victim.


Victims who are uncontrollably distraught should not be left alone. If appropriate, relatives, friends, or a community resource such as a victim’s assistance professional or a clergy member should be contacted to provide support.


If requested by the victim or recommended by the deputy, transportation for the victim to a shelter, safe refuge, or medical facility will be provided or arranged.


When collecting information and physical evidence necessary for the investigation and subsequent prosecution, deputies should be sensitive of the victim’s psychological state.


Deputies should consider the method, manner, location, and timing of a victim interview, so as to reduce undue stress and trauma.


The Family Violence Protection Act requires law enforcement to take additional actions for victims of domestic abuse. These requirements have been detailed in the Sheriff’s Office Domestic Violence Policy.


INFORMATION AND REFERRALS (ADM.24.02 (A – D))


At the earliest appropriate time during the preliminary investigation, deputies will explain and provide the victim with written information regarding their rights and available services. Deputies may utilize the Sheriff’s Office Victim Rights Card which provides the following information:


  • compensation programs and medical, counseling, legal services;
  • instructions about what to do if the suspect or suspect’s companions or family threatens or otherwise intimidates the victim; and
  • Sheriff’s Office information (case number, contact information, investigative steps, etc.)


The deputy will document in their report that the victim was properly informed of the rights and available protections and was provided with information relating to referrals.


INVESTIGATION AND FOLLOW-UP (ADM.24.03)


When conducting an investigation or follow-up investigation, deputies should:


  • If not detrimental to the successful prosecution of the case, explain to the victim the procedures involved in the case and their role in those procedures;
  • If feasible, schedule line-ups, interviews, and other required appearances at the convenience of the victim and, when necessary and practical, provide transportation;
  • If feasible, promptly return a victim’s property taken as evidence (except contraband, disputed property, and weapons used in the course of a crime), where permitted by law or rules of evidence.


If the victim is in need of further assistance from outside resources or requests additional services, the investigating deputy should make a reasonable effort to connect the victim with appropriate service-providing agencies.


CROSS REFERENCES:


  1. SJCSO Policy ADMN-100 “Mission Statement”
  2. Chapter 31, Article 26 NMSA 1978, (“Victims of Crime Act”)
  3. Article 2, Section 24 of the Constitution of New Mexico
  4. Bribery or intimidation of a witness; retaliation against a witness; [30-24-3 NMSA 1978]
  5. Family Violence Protection; [40-13-1 to 40-13-7 NMSA 1978]
  6. SJCSO Policy OPER-324 “Domestic Violence”