Frequently Asked Questions
Am I a victim of crime?
Michigan has two basic categories of crime: felonies, and misdemeanors. A felony is any crime for which the punishment can be over one year in prison. If the penalty is less than a year of incarceration, then it is generally a misdemeanor.
The following definition of crime victim applies to victims of all felonies, and "serious misdemeanors". The list of serious misdemeanors is outlined in the Crime Victim Rights Act (CVRA).
Under the CVRA, a victim is one of the following:
- Someone who suffers direct or threatened physical, financial, or emotional harm as a result of the commission of a crime;
- If the victim is deceased, then that person's spouse, adult child, parent, guardian, sibling, or grandparent - in that order - is considered to be a victim;
- If the victim is under age 18, then the victim's parent, guardian, or custodian may exercise the child victim's rights; and
- If a victim is mentally or emotionally unable to participate in the legal process, then his or her parent, guardian or custodian may exercise their rights on their behalf.
If a criminal has several victims but is only convicted of the crime against one or some of the victims, the other victims will need to talk with the prosecutor to see if they may qualify for restitution.
In addition, if businesses and governmental agencies suffer direct physical or financial harm as the result of a crime, they may qualify as victims deserving restitution.
How do I know if the defendant is going to be released?
When a person is arrested, they have to be brought in front of a judge within 48 hours (72 hours on a week-end) for an arraignment, at which time the judge will most likely release the person on bond. If the arrested person is considered too dangerous to release, the judge can keep the person in jail.
After sentencing, if a defendant is incarcerated in either the local jail or a state prison facility, you have the right to ask the Sheriff (jail) for a calculation of the earliest release date, or the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) for a calculation of the earliest possible parole eligibility date.
You will need to contact the Sheriff's office or the MDOC to receive this information. You may contact the MDOC by calling Crime Victim Services at 517-373-4467 (toll-free 877-866-5401).
How can I keep track of court dates, and the custody status of a prisoner?
Michigan has an automated Michigan Crime Victim Notification Network (MCVNN). MCVNN is free, confidential, and provides 24 hour access to offender custody or case information; the ability to verify an offender's custody status; and automatic notification to registered victims and concerned citizens of a change in offender custody or case status.
If the prisoner is under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Department of Corrections, MCVNN will contact you by telephone. If you are asking for notice on county jail inmates or court hearings, you will receive notice by telephone, email, or by text message.
Telephone - MCVNN will call you with a recorded alert, and will continue to call at a pre-determined frequency until you enter your four-digit Personal Identification Number.
Email - If you sign up for email, you will receive only one message, which will include instructions on how to proceed. You will need to add the following email address to your email address book or white-list to prevent VINE email notifications from being blocked by a spam filter.
Text message - You will receive only one message. You are responsible to pay any standard text messaging rates that applies to your text message service.
Note: MCVNN covers most, but not all counties. Ask your victim advocate if MCVNN is appropriate for your county.
What notifications will I receive if I register with the MDOC as a Crime Victim?
- The prisoner's earliest parole eligibility date;
- The transfer of the prisoner to a minimum security facility and the address of that facility;
- Prisoner Placement in Special Alternative Incarceration (SAI), or boot camp;
- Prior to placing a prisoner in SAI, the MDOC must send notification to the sentencing judge to ensure the judge does not have any objections, unless the judge has already approved placement at the time of sentencing. A copy of this notification will be provided to the victim;
- Movement to and from SAI;
- Escape of the prisoner. In the event of an escape, victims will be notified by telephone within one hour of the escape by the Michigan Crime Victim Notification Network (MCVNN). This will be an automated call and will require the victim to enter a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to confirm they have received the notification and to discontinue the call. Following the generated call, the victim will also receive written notification from Crime Victim Services. To ensure proper notification it is very important that victims inform Crime Victim Services of any changes in addresses and/or telephone numbers;
- Notice of an upcoming parole board hearing. The victim has the right to provide a written, telephone or in-person statement for consideration by the parole board members. Co-victims or other concerned citizens may provide a written statement;
- Notice of the parole board decision within 14 days of the decision;
- Notice of a public hearing regarding a reprieve, commutation or pardon of the prisoner's sentence by the Governor, or a public hearing scheduled for a prisoner serving a life sentence where the parole board has voted to consider parole. In addition, a notice will be sent if a reprieve, commutation or pardon is granted;
- Discharge release of the prisoner. This notice will be sent 90 days before the prisoner is discharged on his or her maximum sentence or when released by court order;
- Prisoner's Legal Name Change;
- New Conviction(s) of the prisoner/parolee; and
- Parole Violation. Notice that a prisoner has been returned from parole status to a correctional facility due to an alleged violation of the conditions of his or her parole.
What notifications am I eligible to receive if I register with the Department of Corrections as a concerned citizen, not as a victim?
You will receive the same notifications as listed above. When you are notified that the prisoner is going to be considered for parole, you may submit your concerns in a written statement, which will be factored into the Board's decision to grant or deny parole.
What if I'm called as a witness - what do I do?
Before Coming to Court
- If you are going to testify about records, familiarize yourself with them before the trial;
- You may be able to speak with the Assistant Attorney General before a court date.
On the Day of Court
- Dress appropriately. A neat appearance and proper attire in court is important;
- If you have been subpoenaed to court, bring it with you. The subpoena will provide information about when and where to appear;
- Arrive at court on time. Unnecessary delays can be caused when a victim or witness is late in arriving at court;
- Witnesses who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol could be held in contempt of court; and
- Conduct yourself in a dignified manner when you are in the courthouse. The trial of a criminal is a serious matter.
What Happens to a Witness in Court
- As a witness for the State, you may be questioned by the Assistant Attorney General and then by the defendant's attorney;
- You may feel during the questioning that your testimony is under suspicion or that your personal motives are doubted. However, the questioning is not meant as a personal attack toward you. It is intended to ensure that all sides of the story are told and to establish the truth; and
- The judge is there to assist you if you do not understand a question and to see that you are treated respectfully.
When You are Called to the Stand to Testify
- Always tell the truth;
- You probably will be nervous, as most people are;
- You will be asked to take an oath to tell the truth. Remember the seriousness of this oath the entire time you are answering questions;
- Perjury - telling a deliberate lie under oath - is punishable by imprisonment for up to 15 years. Be sure you understand each question before answering;
- Listen carefully to the questions. Be sure you understand each question before answering. If you do not understand, ask that the question be asked again or explained;
- Take the time you need to consider the question, don't just say you do not know;
- Answer the question that is asked and then stop talking. Don't offer information not actually asked for;
- If you are sure of the answer, answer positively. Don't say "I think" or "I guess" when you are certain;
- Sometimes, it is necessary to make an estimate. If you make an estimate, such as what time something occurred, make sure that everyone understands you are estimating;
- The judge and jury are interested in only the facts. Don't give your opinions of your conclusions, unless they are specifically asked for;
- Speak clearly, so you will be heard and your answers can be recorded accurately by the court reporter;
- If an attorney objects to a question, do not begin your answer until the judge tells you to do so;
- Be polite while answering questions. Do not lose your temper with the attorney questioning you;
- If you realize that something you said is not really accurate, immediately tell the judge, so you will be allowed to correct the error. If you realize after you have left the witness stand, tell the Assistant Attorney General;
- Do not discuss your testimony with other witnesses without first getting permission to do so from the court.
What is a Personal Protection Order (PPO)?
A personal protection action involves seeking an order from the court to protect you from harassment, assault, beating, molesting, wounding, or stalking by another person. The order can also prohibit a person from entering your premises and from removing minor children, unless the removal is part of court-ordered parenting time. The person filing the petition for personal protection is called the petitioner. The person to be restrained by the personal protection order is called the respondent.
There are two types of personal protection actions: domestic and nondomestic. A domestic personal protection order can be obtained if you have or had an established relationship with the other party or have a child in common.
A nondomestic personal protection order can be obtained if you want to prevent threatening or violent behavior by someone with whom you have not had any form of domestic relationship; this type of order is also referred to as an order against stalking.
How do I get PPO?
You do not need an attorney to obtain a PPO, but you will need to go to your local court and talk with a judge about why a PPO is important to your personal safety.