Air Force

March 22, 2013

Legal assistance tip: Victim, witness assistance program

The criminal justice system is a taxing process with many detrimental effects in addition to those already suffered by victims of crimes and those who have witnessed them.

President Ronald Reagan was galvanized by the historically poor treatment of victims to create a Task Force on Victims of Crimes.

In December 1982, the President’s Task Force published its final report that found that the system of military justice ignored the victim and the system’s resources were geared toward preserving the rights of the accused. In an effort to provide guidance for the treatment of victims and witnesses of crimes, The Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982 was passed.

Further protections were codified in the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act of 1990. These federal protections for victims and witnesses are implemented through Department of Defense Directive 1030.01 and Instruction 1030.2. Within the Air Force, these protections are found in Chapter 7 of Air Force Instruction 51-201.

Air Force Instruction 51-201 establishes the Victim and Witness Assistance Program within the Air Force. At the local level, each installation commander is designated as the Local Responsible Official for the VWAP, but this duty can be delegated in writing to the Staff Judge Advocate. The LRO has many responsibilities such as identifying victims and witnesses, providing any services required by the Air Force VWAP, appointing a victim liaison in cases where victim or witness assistance has been identified and is needed, and ensuring the accomplishment of required training by all local agencies.

In addition to designating the LRO, AFI 51-201 establishes the position of victim liaison.

A victim liaison is appointed in order to provide victims with information regarding their rights, the military justice process and the services available on base. Either the LRO or victim liaison will advise the victim of his/her rights under federal and state law.

The victim liaison is responsible for assisting the victim during the military justice process and acts as the point of contact between the victim and the various service agencies that assist with VWAP. A VWAP liaison will ensure that a victim remains informed regarding their rights throughout the justice process. A general outline of these rights include being treated with fairness and respect, the right to reasonable protection from a suspect or the accused, and to be notified of all court-martial proceedings. The victim liaison will assist the victim or witness in arranging for medical care, notification of employers, counseling, and childcare. The liaison will also coordinate with the case paralegal and the legal office to make sure that all arrangements are made for the victim/witness to ensure that they are able to travel as hassle free as possible. For a victim/witness, actually going through the court-martial procedures can be a traumatic experience and it is the goal of VWAP to prepare and educate individuals in order to try and ease the burden of the justice system.

 

For more information, contact the Base Legal office at (661) 277-4310. Legal assistance attorneys are available to assist eligible clients Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Paralegals can provide power of attorney and notary services Monday through Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Fridays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. A will or power of attorney will be completed the same day a client walks-in. Expedite the process of getting a will, advance medical directive, health care power of attorney, or any other power of attorney drafted by utilizing the worksheets on the Air Force Legal Assistance website, https://aflegalassistance.law.af.mil/.

In addition to walk-in services, the legal office now offers an additional way to expedite drafting a will. You may now schedule an appointment on Fridays between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. to have your will pre-drafted. If you choose to use this process, an attorney will have your will drafted and ready for your review when you arrive for your appointment.

 




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