COVID-19 NOTICE:

Our Victim/Witness Assistance Unit remains available to address any questions and concerns you might have during this challenging time.

Howard County SAO Victim/Witness Assistance Unit
410-313-3153
kvasco@howardcountymd.gov

A Message from Rich H. Gibson, Jr.
State’s Attorney for Howard County

One of the most important roles for prosecutors and support staff in the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office is to make the process of seeking justice responsive to the needs and concerns of victims of crime and witnesses who are required to testify in court.  Success in the prosecution of criminal cases is dependent on the support and assistance of witnesses.

The primary goal of the Victim Witness Assistance Unit of the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office is to make your experience as a State’s witness as clear and comfortable as possible.  This unit serves as the primary contact point for victims and witnesses to gain ongoing information regarding their case in court. 

The process of a criminal case can be confusing.  Some of the legal terms used may be unfamiliar and it is not uncommon for there to be delays in the commencement of trial, which can be frustrating.  Victims also need assistance in knowing where to turn for help for problems that occur either because of the crime itself or in their court appearance.  We hope this website can answer some of your questions. 

It is our intention to do everything possible to make your encounter with the criminal justice system less challenging and better understood.  It is our sincere desire to make the process of seeking justice as easy on you as it can be.

Sincerely,

Rich H. Gibson, Jr.

Victim/Witness Unit

Our Victim/Witness Assistance Unit consists of a team of skilled advocates who have experience and expertise in assisting victims and witnesses of all crimes committed in Howard County.  Our advocates can be very helpful in assisting those affected by crime to understand and navigate the criminal justice process. Advocates have a multitude of community resources to help victims and witnesses in moving forward through this process.  Our advocates will accompany victims and witnesses to court proceedings and serve as the contact person to provide up-to-date information about the status of a case. If you are a victim or witness, we invite you to tell your advocate of any concerns you may have about any aspect of your case.  Your advocate will ensure that you are informed of certain rights you have as a victim of crime.  Some of these rights include:

Right to be informed:  A victim who has suffered threats of physical, emotional or financial harm as a direct result of a crime or a delinquent act, will be given notification within ten (10) days of the indictment or information filed of the case. The victim will receive notification information along with a Notification Request Form. This form allows a victim to inform us whether they wish to be notified of all court proceedings before they occur. The completion of this form also ensures registration with VINE (Victim Information Notification Everyday), an automated online system that notifies victims when an offender is going to be released from custody.

Right to be present:  Victims who file the Notification Request Form have the right to attend, if possible, any proceeding in which the defendant has the right to appear. Victims will be provided a safe place to wait for the hearing and will be escorted to the courtroom when it is time for the case to be presented.

Right to be heard:  Victims are permitted by law to be in court when a defendant is sentenced or when a defendant’s sentence is reviewed. It is at this time victims are given the opportunity to submit a Victim Impact Statement. This statement includes a description of how the crime has affected them physically, emotionally and financially. The statement should be prepared before the hearing and will be submitted to the Court prior to the hearing. A Victim Impact Statement can be given orally or in writing.

How May We Assist You?

The Victim/Witness Assistance Unit is a specialized unit in the State’s Attorney’s Office designed to provide information and assistance to victims and witnesses. We are here to provide you with the support and services needed to help navigate the complex, criminal justice system. Services include the following:

  • Deliver ongoing, up-to-date information regarding case status
  • Explain how court procedures work
  • Schedule pre-trial conferences for trial preparation
  • Accompany victim/witness to court
  • Help with preparation of Victim Impact Statements
  • Facilitate paperwork involving Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB) forms; where applicable
  • Assist with restitution and property return
  • Refer victim/witness to appropriate community resources
  • Offer individuals assistance with VINELink website, Bond/custody status, etc.
  • Follow-up communication regarding an appeal, post-conviction, violation of probation, etc.
  • Inform victim/witness of parole notification
Your Role as a Witness
  • Contact your Victim/Witness Advocate a few days prior to any hearing to discuss case status
  • If you require accommodation of any kind (interpreter, mobility, transportation, etc.) please notify us as soon as possible, so that we can accommodate your needs
  • Dress appropriately for court
  • Come to court 15 minutes early
  • Check-in with the prosecutor at the front of the courtroom
  • Address the Judge as “Your Honor”
  • During your testimony, stop talking when the judge speaks, or if an attorney “objects”
  • Answer only what is asked
  • Speak loud and clear, stick to the FACTS
  • Avoid stating personal opinions
  • If you do not understand a question, ask that it be repeated or explained
  • If you do not know an answer, or cannot remember – simply say so
  • Try to relax and just TELL THE TRUTH
Resources For Victims And Witnesses

HopeWorks of Howard County
9770 Patuxent Woods Drive Ste. 300
Columbia, MD 21046
https://wearehopeworks.org
410-997-0304
410-997-2272 (Hotline)

Family and Children’s Services
10451 Twin Rivers Road., Ste. 100
Columbia, MD 21044
https://www.fsfinc.org
410-997-3557

Grassroots Crisis Intervention/Mobile Crisis Team
6700 Freetown Road
Columbia, MD 21044
https://www.grassrootscrisis.org
410-531-6677 (Hotline)

Humanim, Inc.
6355 Woodside Court
Columbia, Maryland 21046
https://humanim.org
410-381-7172

Howard County Health Department/Bureau of Addictions
7178 Columbia Gateway Drive
Columbia, MD 21046
https://www.howardcountymd.gov/gethelp
410-313-6202
800-838-1752 (Hotline)

Foreign Born Information and Referral Network (FIRN)
5999 Harpers Farm Rd., Ste E200
Columbia, MD 21044
https://www.firnonline.org
410-992-1923

VINELink (Victim Information and Notification Everyday)
https://www.vinelink.com
1-866-MD4VINE (866) 634-8463
TTY (866) 847-1298

Maryland Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB)
http://www.dpscs.maryland.gov/victimservs/cicb
410-585-3010