Please be advised that the Blair County Victim Witness Department is working in accordance with guidelines set for by the County in response to the growing COVID-19 pandemic within Blair County. Our office is currently open to the public, however calling before your appearance is greatly appreciated. Thank you for your patience during this time.
The Victim/Witness Unit maintains the right of victims and witnesses to be treated with dignity and respect during the course of the criminal proceedings. We recognize the vital role of victims and witnesses in making the criminal justice system work within our community. We strive to ensure that their concerns, interests, and needs are represented and protected.
It is the responsibility of the Victim/Witness Unit to ensure that victims are provided the their rights as defined under the Prosecuter’s Responsibilities of the Crime Victims Bill of Rights (Act 111 of 1998). These rights include the following:
- Notice of the opportunity to have prior comment on the potential reduction or dropping of any charge or changing of a plea.
- Notice of time and place of disposition proceedings
- Notice of the disposition and sentence in their case
- Assistance in preparing the victim impact statement
- Assistance in preparing the Crime Victim Compensation form, when applicable
- Assistance in preparing the restitution request
- Notice of defendant’s release from jail at the time of sentencing for victims of personal injury crimes through the SAVIN Program
In addition the unit provides services to crime victims including:
- Case Status
- Courtroom Orientation
- Early Outreach
- Employer/Creditor Intervention
- Intake and Assessment
- Assistance with Property Return
- Information on the State Correctional/Parole Victim Input and Release Notification Program
- Supportive Counseling
- Assistance with Transportation to Court Hearings
As a victim, you will be sent a packet of paperwork that includes, information on the victim’s rights, an impact statement, restitution form and when applicable a Crime Victim Compensation application. Coordinators are responsible for contacting victims with information as to when to appear for a criminal trial. Disposition letters with sentencing information are sent to all crime victims. Additionally coordinators provide information to victims regarding post sentence appeals filed by a defendant.
A Victim Impact Statement is a written or oral statement presented to the court at the sentencing of the defendant. Many times victims, their family members, and friends of the victim participate in both written and verbal statements. More often than not, numerous individuals write letters to the sentencing judge and only a few of those directly connected to the crime speak at sentencing. Victim Impact Statements were created as an opportunity for the judge to hear how a criminal action has affected you and those that you love.
Restitution is the opportunity to have the defendant reimburse you for expenses related to the crime. This information needs to be provided to the court before the sentencing of the defendant. You can mail copies of your expenses to the office or provide them via email.
The Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification System (SAVIN) is available to anyone who wants to know when an inmate is released from a county or state prison. Registrations are anonymous and can be done on line or by phone. The web site to register is www.vinelink.com or toll free at 1-866-847-1298.
Our office works closely with Family Services, Inc., a non-profit located in Altoona. They assist our office with accompaniment to legal and medical appointments, therapeutic counseling, crisis counseling, Civil Protection Orders like PFA’s, SVPO’s and PFI’s, support groups and community shelter assistance. You can reach them through their 24 hour hotline at 1-800-500-2849 or www.familyservicesinc.net.
OVA services include, but are not limited to, information and registration for notifications regarding offenders serving state sentences, Address Confidentiality Program, Inmate Apology Bank and Victim/Offender Dialogue Program.