Victims Assistance - Frequently Asked Questions

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What happens now that the suspect has been arrested and taken into custody by law enforcement?
Depending upon the charge, the suspect may be eligible to bond out, and be assigned a future court date, or held until the next working day to make an appearance in Magistrate Court.

In the case of Simple Assault/Domestic Violence arrests, the defendant must appear before a judge before he/she is released. 

The suspect could not be located after the crime.  What happens now?
Normally an investigator or detective will be assigned to follow up on the case.  If probable cause exists, the investigator or detective will either make an arrest at that time, or may forward a Warrant Request to the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office.  The Pennington County State’s Attorney or one of his deputies will then review the case and determine how the case will be charged.

What happens in Magistrate Court?
This is the time when the defendant is brought before the Judge and he/she is informed of the charges against him/her.  The Court advises the defendant of his/her statutory and constitutional rights.  If a defendant has not had a bond set in his/her case, the Judge will determine the appropriate amount for the bond.  Depending upon the charge, if the defendant pleads guilty to a misdemeanor charge, he/she may or may not be sentenced at that time.  In the case of Simple Assault/Domestic Violence cases, the Judge nearly always continues the Sentencing Hearing to a later date.  This occurs because victims have a right to submit a victim impact statement at or before the time of sentencing.

If a defendant pleads not guilty or asks to speak to a defense attorney, in the case of misdemeanor charges, the Judge will continue the case for a Dispositional Conference, usually within a few days.  At that time, the State’s Attorney or one of his deputies will make a plea offer to the defendant and/or his/her attorney.  If the defendant decides to plead guilty, the Sentencing Hearing may occur after the Dispositional Conference, or a later date.  If the defendant does not accept the plea offer, the case will be scheduled for a further hearing.

If the defendant is charged with a Felony, the matter will be continued for a Preliminary Hearing.  At the Preliminary Hearing, the Court will decide if there is probable cause to believe that a crime has occurred, and if there is probable cause to believe that the defendant is the person who committed the crime.  If probable cause is determined, the case will be bound over to Circuit Court.  At that time, a Circuit Court Judge will be assigned to the case, and an Arraignment Hearing will be held, at which time the defendant is again advised of the charges against him and is read his statutory and constitutional rights.  Further hearings will ensue.

I was the victim of a juvenile offender.  What procedures are followed in juvenile court?
All juvenile proceedings are confidential, so other than the victim of the crime, the public is not allowed to attend these hearings.  The goal of juvenile court is rehabilitation, rather than punishment.  In juvenile proceedings, the first appearance is referred to as the Advisory Hearing.  This is the time when the juvenile is brought before the juvenile court judge, and he/she will either admit to or deny committing the crime.

If the juvenile admits to committing the crime, the Court will often proceed to the Dispositional Hearing, which, in juvenile court is equivalent to what a Sentencing Hearing is in criminal court.  This is the time when the Judge will decide how best to handle the matter, and what services should be provided so that the juvenile, hopefully, will never commit a further crime.

If the juvenile denies committing the crime, the Court usually assigns an attorney to represent him/her.  An Adjudication Hearing will then be scheduled, where the Judge will determine if the State’s Attorney has proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt.  At an Adjudication Hearing the State’s Attorney will present evidence to the Court.  This Adjudicatory Hearing is much like a Jury Trial in criminal court, with the exception that it is the Court which decides whether or not the case is proved beyond a reasonable doubt, not a jury.  At that time, if the case is proved, the Court will adjudicate the juvenile delinquent, and will schedule a Dispositional Hearing.  As stated above, this is the time when the Judge will decide how best to handle the matter, and what services should be provided so that the juvenile, hopefully, will never commit a further charge. 

My property was damaged as a result of this incident.  Can I expect reimbursement for these damages?
You will need to obtain estimates of the damage to your property, medical bills, lost wages, etc. and submit copies of these estimates to the State’s Attorney’s Office.  In most cases, you will also be mailed a Financial Impact Statement Worksheet to assist you in determining your losses.  In criminal court, if there is a conviction, this information would then be submitted to the Court and the parties to the case.  In juvenile court, if the juvenile is adjudicated delinquent, this information would then be submitted to the Court and the parties to the case.

The Court ultimately decides what, if any, restitution will be ordered.  Sometimes, when the offender is a juvenile or is indigent, the Court will order community services rather than restitution.  If restitution is ordered, most defendants and juveniles are required to set up a payment plan with the help of the Court Services Officer, who will supervise the probation of this individual.  Payments are made to the Clerk of Courts Office, which are then distributed to the victims in the case.

After the Sentencing Hearing, if restitution is ordered, and the offender is sent to the South Dakota State Penitentiary, payments may be delayed for years.  If the defendant is ultimately paroled, the Parole Agent would then supervise the restitution payment plan.

Alternatively, if you have incurred losses in the crime, you can file a Small Claims Action at the Clerk of Courts Office.  The Pennington County Clerk of Courts Office is located on the Second Floor of the Pennington County Courthouse.  If you decide to file a Small Claims Action, the restitution account would then be closed.

Finally, a victim may also elect to have the Criminal Judgment converted to a Civil Judgment.  In order to accomplish this, you must seek assistance through the Clerk of Courts Office.

I was physically injured as a result of this incident and I don’t have insurance to pay for my medical services.  Is there a program that will help me pay for my medical bills?
Yes.  There is a Crime Victims Compensation Program which provides payment of out-of-pocket costs of medical bills, counseling costs, lost wages, and funeral expenses.  This program is available to innocent victims of a violent crime, who have experienced physical or emotional trauma, or who have been a survivor of a homicide victim.  There is a link to this Program on this web-site.  It is a State program, listed under Victim Services.  There is an Application available on-line.  Or, you may obtain or be mailed an Application by the Victims Assistant, who is available to assist you in the Application process.  However, it is the Crime Victims Compensation Program which decides whether or not to award a claim.

I provided the officer with details regarding the crime.  Will the police or sheriff’s office need any other information from me pertaining to the crime?
A detective or an investigator may be assigned to further investigate the crime.  It is possible that you may be asked to have a follow-up interview so that the detective or investigator may obtain further information from you regarding the crime.  In addition, he/she may speak to other witnesses or the suspect in the crime.

Will I be required to testify in Court against the defendant?
If the Pennington County State’s Attorney charges the defendant with a crime, and if the defendant does not plead guilty, you may be asked to testify at either a Preliminary Hearing, a Grand Jury Hearing, or at a Jury Trial.  If your testimony is required, the State’s Attorney will serve you with a subpoena, which will inform you of the date and time to testify.  Before you testify, the State’s Attorney will prepare you for your testimony, and answer any questions you may have about the legal proceeding.

Of course, if the defendant were to ultimately plead guilty, you would not be required to testify at a Jury Trial, and the case would move to a Sentencing Hearing. 

It is very important to keep the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office or the Pennington County Victims Assistance Program informed of any changes in your address or with your phone numbers.  We will then be able to contact you and/or keep you informed of the status of your case.

The officer took some of my property into evidence.  When and how will my property be returned to me?
Normally, victims are able to recover their property at the discretion of the State’s Attorney, after the Sentencing Hearing.  If the evidence is essential for the prosecution of the criminal case, it cannot be returned until the conclusion of the criminal case.  In order to have your property returned, the Rapid City/Pennington County Evidence Section will need to obtain a Release of Evidence from the State’s Attorney’s Office.  Once this is done, you must call the Evidence Section at (605)-394-6033 to schedule an appointment to collect your property.  You can determine if this form has been received by evidence by calling the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office, or Evidence.

I was assaulted and do not want the suspect to have any contact with me.  Can I get a Protection Order?
Yes.   You have two alternatives in this regard.  First, you may obtain a Domestic Violence Protection Order Application through the Clerk of Courts Office if the offender is a relative or household member; or, you may obtain a Stalking Protection Order Application if you have been a *victim of violence, and have no relationship to the offender, and/or if the person’s acts of harassment have seriously alarmed, annoyed, or harassed you.  You can obtain on-line Applications for these Orders through the State web-site, under Victim Services or you may obtain these Application Forms from the Pennington County Clerk of Courts Office.  The maximum amount of time these Orders may remain in effect is up to five years. 

In addition, if you are a victim of violence, a No Contact Order will be automatically presented by the Pennington County State’s Attorney to the Magistrate Court Judge at the first appearance of the defendant.  The No Contact Order is a condition of bond or a condition of sentence, and the Judge will determine how long the No Contact Order will remain in effect.   There is no application process for you to complete.

*These are crimes of violence:  murder, manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault, riot, robbery, first degree burglary, arson, kidnapping, felony sexual contact, child abuse, or any other felony in the commission of which the perpetrator used force, or was armed with a dangerous weapon, or used any explosive or destructive device.  Simple Assault/Domestic Violence is also a crime of violence.  This would also include an attempt or conspiracy to commit the above-described crimes.

What is the difference between a Protection Order and a No Contact Order?
A Domestic Violence Protection Order is available to anyone who has been threatened or abused by a household or family member, and a Stalking Protection Order is available to anyone who has been a victim of violence, or who has been seriously harassed, alarmed or annoyed.  These are civil orders.  (However, if these Orders are violated, these violations may be charged criminally.)  The Domestic Violence Orders can specify what contact, if any, is allowed, and it can provide guidelines concerning child custody, support, and visitation, if children are involved.  Both Domestic Violence and Stalking Protection Orders will state very explicitly the specifics concerning the prohibitions of contact. 

No Contact Orders are generally limited to no contact with the victim directly or indirectly, and normally they are in effect only as long as the criminal case is pending.

There are cases where a person does have both a Protection Order and a No Contact Order.

Will I have any input as to the sentencing of the defendant?
Yes.  You will be given as much advanced notice as possible of the Sentencing Hearing date and time.  You will be asked if you would like to submit a Victim Impact Statement, which describes how you have been affected by the crime.  You are also able to make a statement concerning what your recommendations would be for the defendant. 

At times, in misdemeanor cases, when the defendant makes a first appearance in Magistrate Court, and he/she pleads guilty, the Court will sentence at that time.  However, if the State’s Attorney is aware that the victim may want to make a Victim Impact Statement, or submit restitution information, the hearing is usually continued.  Also, when a Plea Hearing is scheduled in misdemeanor cases, quite often the Court will sentence the defendant at the same time.  So, to be sure that you are able to have input, it is best to contact the State’s Attorney with your information, so that the Court will be aware of your feelings in the case.

What if I am threatened while my case is pending?
If anyone threatens you, or you feel that you are being harassed because of your contribution to the case, you should immediately notify local law enforcement and the State's Attorney Office. It is illegal to threaten, intimidate, harass, or mislead a witness in a criminal case.

What if I want the charges dropped?
Only the State's Attorney or the Court may dismiss charges against a defendant; however, you should let our office know if you no longer wish to proceed with the case. While we will take your wishes into consideration, we must also take into consideration the safety of the community and other factors when making a decision to drop charges or continue prosecution of the case.