NOVA places a high priority on ensuring that victims are afforded their rights and given fair treatment. NOVA staff members will advocate on behalf of individual victims, with their concurrence and input, to help ensure that their rights are not violated and that they are not subjected to other adverse actions because of their victimization.
Crime victims in Pennsylvania have the following rights:
- To receive basic information concerning the services available
- In personal injury crimes, to be notified of the arrest of the suspect or the suspect’s escape from police custody;
- To be accompanied at all public criminal proceedings by a family member, a victim advocate or another person;
- In case of personal injury crimes, burglary, or driving under the influence involving bodily injury, to submit prior comment to the prosecutor’s office on the potential reduction or dropping of any charge or changing of a plea, if the victim so requests;
- To offer prior comment or to submit a written impact statement for the judge’s consideration at sentencing;
- To obtain restitution to the extent possible, including compensation through the State Crime Victim’s Compensation program;
- Upon request, where the offender is sentenced to a state prison, to provide prior comment on and to receive notice of release decisions, and to be immediately notified if the offender escapes;
- Upon request, in personal injury crimes, where the offender is sentenced to a local correctional facility, to receive notification of any release or escape of the offender, in addition to any relevant conditions imposed prior to release;
- Upon prior request, to receive notice when an offender is committed to a mental health facility from a state prison and of the discharge, transfer or escape of the offender from the mental health facility, and;
- Upon request, to have assistance in the preparation of, submission of and follow-up on the financial assistance claims for the state Victims’ Compensation Fund.
Criminal Justice System Navigation
NOVA’s advocates consider the victim’s perspective as they move through the criminal justice system. As legal questions arise, the advocate is there to provide information and assist the victim through the criminal justice system. NOVA’s advocates are experienced at explaining the system in an easy to understand way, which enables victims to make informed decisions. Three of the NOVA advocates have special expertise and work with specifically defined populations of clients to provide sensitive and comprehensive services. These advocates work with victims of Human Trafficking, those involved in DUI related car crashes and victims of Elder Abuse.
Police Interview Accompaniment
NOVA victim advocates provide assistance to victims at every stage of the criminal justice process. When a victim first reports a crime, the police will notify NOVA, and a Victim Advocate will respond. The advocate will meet the victim at the police station or hospital to provide support during the initial police interview, with the victim’s permission. Later, the advocate may go with the victim to further interviews with the police and others in the justice system. The Victim Advocate’s main purpose is to prepare the victim for what comes next in the legal process and to provide support during meetings and court proceedings.
A victim may also contact NOVA directly if they would like to have an advocate accompany them to make an initial report of a crime to police. For support while meeting with police regarding a crime, please call the NOVA hotline at 1-800-675-6900.
NOVA’s advocates accompany victims during meetings with the District Attorney’s Office, assist in the preparation of victim impact statements and provide on-going support throughout the criminal justice process. Legal advocacy services are also provided for Preliminary Hearings, Pre-Trial Hearings, Trials, Guilty Pleas, Sentencings, Appeal Hearings and Juvenile Court Proceedings. This includes: sitting with a victim or their significant others during a hearing, serving a liaison between law enforcement and the victim between hearings, and providing updates following a court event to victims who were not present.
NOVA advocates assist clients with registration with the Office of the Victim Advocate (OVA), a program of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. OVA provides assistance with post-sentencing rights and services for victims of crime. NOVA works closely with OVA to provide accompaniment to victims who provide input in parole hearings.
Victim Compensation Assistance Program Claim Filing
Pennsylvania’s Victims Compensation Assistance Program is in place to assist with the financial costs a crime victim may experience as a result of the crime. Covered expenses include:
- Counseling Expenses
- Medical Expenses
- Loss of Earnings
- Loss of Support
- Relocation Expenses
- Funeral Expenses
- Crime-scene Cleanup
- Money Stolen or Defrauded from individuals on a fixed income, such as Social Security
You may be eligible for Crime Victim’s Compensation if:
- The crime occurred in Pennsylvania
- The crime was reported to law enforcement OR
- A Protection from Abuse Order (PFA) was filed
- The victim has cooperated with law enforcement and courts
- The claim was filed within two years after the crime (exceptions for children)
- The victim was not engaged in an illegal activity
- Minimum loss requirements are met
There are no costs for filing a claim and in special circumstances an emergency award of up to $1,000 may be considered. NOVA’s Victim Advocates can provide compensation forms, assist in filing a claim and completing required paperwork, answer questions about the program and inform you of any additional services to which you may be entitled.
Victim Offender Notification
PA SAVIN (Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification) is a free service that notifies victims of a particular offender’s movement through the correctional system. It provides alerts when an offender is moved, released or escapes. Once a victim signs up, the system will send alerts through a call or text to the phone number provided or via email.
How to sign up:
Call 1-866-9PA-SAVIN (1-866-972-7284) and follow the instructions. The hearing impaired should call TTY: 1-866-847-1298. Registration can also be done online at https://www.VINElink.com.
If notification is requested via phone call, the victim will need to create a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) code. The service requires the PIN code to be entered when it calls with an alert. The alert will continue to be sent until the PIN is entered, so victims are advised to choose a code they will remember and write it down in a secure place. This PIN is also required to change or cancel a victim’s registration.
NOVA advocates are available to assist victims with registering for PA SAVIN.
VINElink also had a mobile app, VINElink Mobile, which makes it much easier to track the status of offenders in county correctional institutions and the PA State Prison System. This mobile app is available through the Apple App Store and Google Play and can be downloaded on Android and iPhone devices. VINElink Mobile is completely free and anonymous for users, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. While the app is similar to the website, in an “app friendly” format. With the app, victims, prosecutors, law enforcement, and concerned citizens can obtain up-to date offender status and search for offenders by first and last names or by age/gender. Through the app, individuals can register to receive notifications whenever there is a change in an offender’s status via phone, email, or text. The app also provides access to PA’s victim services as well as other emergency numbers with a single tap.
For more information or to download VINElink Mobile, visit https://apprisssafety.com/solutions/vine.