Victim Witness Program

The City of Salem Victim/Witness Program is here to assist victims and witnesses of crimes by providing information and support throughout the court process. The Victim/Witness Program helps to ensure that victims and witnesses are treated with dignity and respect in the aftermath of a crime. Through education about the criminal justice system, victims and witnesses will be able to take active roles in the court process. We understand that crime not only impacts the victim, but also family, friends, and loved ones as well. Community response and support is an essential part of the healing process.

Crime Victim and Witness Rights

As a Victim of a Crime, You May Be Entitled to

  • Information about:
    • Your rights and local agencies and programs that can provide information and assistance.
    • Protection and protective orders
    • Financial assistance and social services, including the Virginia Victims Fund (officially the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund)
    • Address and telephone number confidentiality
    • Closed preliminary hearing or use of closed-circuit television, under limited circumstances
    • Separate waiting area during court proceedings
    • The right to remain in the courtroom during a criminal trial or proceeding
    • The right to consult the Commonwealth's Attorney regarding proposed plea agreements and plea negotiations in felony cases
    • The law (40.1-28.7:2) requires employers to allow employees who are crime victims to leave from work to attend criminal proceedings
  • Assistance in:
    • Obtaining protection and protective orders
    • Obtaining property held by law enforcement agencies
    • Receiving intercession services with your employer
    • Obtaining advanced notice of court proceedings
    • Receive the services of an interpreter
    • Preparing a Victim Impact Statement in felony cases
    • Seeking Restitution

As a Witness of a Crime, You May Be Entitled to

  • Information about:
    • Your rights and available protection
    • Address and telephone number confidentiality
    • Separate waiting area during court proceedings
  • Assistance in:
    • Obtaining protection
    • Receiving intercession services with your employer
    • Receiving the services of an interpreter

Threatening a Victim or Witness Is a Crime in Virginia

If you are threatened by the defendant or anyone else in regard to your testimony, call your local police department immediately and notify the Victim/Witness program at 540-375-4106.

If You Are Subpoenaed

We can help you with understanding the requirements of a subpoena and testifying in court; interceding with your employer if you are having difficulty taking off work to attend court.

Tips on Testifying

  • Be prepared. Try to recall what happened and picture the scene and the objects there. Do not try to memorize your testimony; simply tell what happened in your own words.
  • Speak clearly and loudly. Direct your answers to the judge. If you do not hear or understand a question, ask the attorney to repeat the question.
  • Answer only the question asked of you. If the judge interrupts you or an attorney objects stop answering.
  • Do not guess or speculate. If you do not know the answer, say "I do not know." If you are estimating a time or distance, please ensure that the court is aware of the estimation.
  • Tell the truth. Answer to the best of your recollection.
  • Be courteous. Try to remain calm and do not lose your temper. Always be polite.
  • Dress for Court. Dress comfortably and appropriately (shorts and t-shirts are not good choices however, it is not necessary to dress in a suit).

Your Responsibilities as a Victim or Witness

  • Provide a valid address and telephone number and any other required information to all agencies responsible for providing information and notice to the victim/witness.
  • Provide timely notice of changes in the status of the information, including the change of address or telephone number.
  • The information provided shall not be disclosed to any person other than a law enforcement agency, corrections agency, or prosecutor's office without the prior written consent of the victim/witness.
  • Victims and witnesses are only required to be present for court proceedings when a subpoena has been received at the request of law enforcement or prosecutorial staff.

If you feel that any of your rights as a victim/witness have been violated, you may file a written complaint with the City of Salem Victim Witness Program.

Victim Impact Statements

Victims of crime have the right to prepare and present a Victim Impact Statement. The submission of a written and/or oral victim impact statement should detail the physical, psychological, and economic effects of the crime on the victim and the victim's family. The Victim Impact Statement allows a victim to provide information on the following:

  • Emotional and psychological impact of the crime
  • Physical effects of the crime
  • Effect of the crime on the victim's ability to work or do any of the things he/she would normally do
  • Financial impact experienced as a result of the crime

Oral Victim Impact Statements may be presented to the Court at the time the defendant is sentenced. The defendant and the defendant's attorney have the opportunity to review the victim's written statement. Victims' addresses and telephone numbers do not appear on these documents.

Please contact the Victim Witness Program if you require assistance developing your victim impact statement.


Restitution is the possibility of monetary payments made by the defendant to the victim in order to compensate the victim for financial losses resulting from the crime. Losses incurred must be a direct result of the crime. Receipts and estimates for losses should be included whenever possible to provide appropriate documentation to ensure that restitution can be considered by the Court. Restitution claims must be submitted prior to the sentencing date.

Victims may be eligible for financial assistance from the Virginia Victims Fund (Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund). This program reimburses victims for certain types of out-of-pocket expenses related to physical or emotional trauma as a direct result of a criminal act. For more information you can visit their website at: Home | Virginia Victims Fund.

Important Information for Domestic Violence Victims

If you were a victim of domestic violence and the suspect in the incident was not arrested/charged you as the victim can apply for a warrant at the Magistrate’s Office located in the lobby of the Roanoke County Jail located at 401 E. Main Street Salem, VA 24153.  The Magistrate’s Office is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Magistrate’s can issue criminal warrants for threats, property damage, etc.  

In arrests associated with domestic violence, the arresting officer will apply for an Emergency Protective Order as required by law. The arrestee may be ordered to have NO CONTACT with you for up to 72 hours.  A violation of this order by the arrestee becomes a criminal matter and he/she will be arrested again for Violation of a Protective Order.  When applying for a domestic assault warrant yourself, an Emergency Protective Order may also be obtained.  You can apply for a Preliminary Protective Order (an order longer than 72 hours) at the 23rd Court Services Unit located at 400 E. Main Street Salem, VA 24153, you can also contact their office at 540-283-3183.  

Important Terms

  • Felony - a major crime that may be punished by a sentence of one year or more in jail/prison.
  • Misdemeanor - a less serious crime punishable by confinement in jail for up to 12 months and/or up to a $2,500 fine.
  • Arraignment - an accused person's appearance in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court or General District Court at which time the court informs the defendant of the charges against him/her and the defendant answers the charges.
  • Subpoena - a court order directing you to be present in court at a particular time and place.
  • Continuance - postponement of the hearing of a case from one date to another.
  • Defendant - a person who has been formally charged with committing a crime.
  • Disposition - the outcome of the case.
  • Pre-Sentence Investigation - a report prepared by a Probation and Parole Officer that the judge may use to help determine the sentencing of a person who pleas guilty or is found guilty. The report may include information regarding the defendant's background, such as family, education, employment, and prior criminal record.
  • Preliminary Hearing - a legal proceeding before a district justice to determine whether there is probable cause to formally accuse a person of a crime.
  • Probation - conditional freedom, instead of confinement to jail/prison; allowing the person convicted to live and work in the community.
  • Victim - any person against whom a crime has been committed.

If you feel that you have been a victim of a crime and need information, please contact the City of Salem Victim/Witness program at 540-375-4106.