Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Cook County Connections: Unsure How to Help Crime Victims? Start by Learning About Their Rights

Apr 21, 2023 08:59AM ● By Content Editor
Photo provided

From Cook County, Minnesota - April 21, 2023

By: KathyAnn Travis, Victim Witness Coordinator/Paralegal, Cook County Attorney’s Office

The Cook County Attorney’s Office’s victim witness program has been building a positive relationship with people impacted by crime for over twenty years. The criminal justice system in the United States is centered around the constitutional rights of the accused, historically leaving out the voice of victims. Having victim-specific services available to those harmed by crime means that victims are updated and provided a liaison in the criminal justice system. Minnesota statutory rights for victims allow them the ability to observe hearings and provide meaningful feedback during sentencing.

Collaboration with other community partners is vital for the victim witness program to ensure that victims are getting all the available services needed. The Victim Witness Coordinator/Paralegal works with agencies such as Cook County Law Enforcement, Grand Portage Human Services, Cook County Probation, North Shore Health, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic and Cook County Public Health and Human Services.

The Office for Victims of Crime, part of the federal Department of Justice, funds victim services and each April leads communities throughout the country in their annual observances of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW). We will observe National Crime Victims’ Rights Week April 23–29. The 2023 theme—Survivor Voices: Elevate. Engage. Effect Change.—calls upon communities to amplify the voices of survivors and commit to creating an environment where survivors have the confidence that they will be heard, believed, and supported.

From October 1, 2021, to September 30, 2022, the Cook County Victim Witness program served 263 crime victims and provided them with various services in the categories Information & Referral, Personal Advocacy and Accompaniment, Emotional Support/Safety Services, Shelter/Housing Services, Criminal Justice System Assistance. The crime victim services that we provide are mostly both in the category of Information and Referral where crime victims are provided with information about the criminal justice process and under Criminal Justice System Assistance, notification is provided on criminal justice events, such as court hearings, trials etc. The victim witness coordinator also accompanies crime victims as support during pre-trial conferences and during all hearings and trials.

Each crime victim’s healing process will be different, but one step everyone can take is to learn what rights crime victims have. These rights will be best protected when all participants in the criminal justice process—and not only victims—are appropriately educated about victims’ rights.

Under Minnesota law, Statute 611A, victims and witnesses of crimes have the following rights:


Victims of crime are to be notified of:

  • Their rights.
  • Prosecution process and the right to participate in it.
  • Contents of any plea agreement.
  • Release or escape of the offender from prison or a custodial institution or transfer to a lower security facility.


Victims of crime have the right to:

·        A secure waiting area during court proceedings.

·        Request that home and employment address, telephone number, and birth date be withheld in open court.

·        Request that law enforcement agency withhold their identity from the public.

·        Protection against employer retaliation for victims and witnesses called to testify and for victims of violent crimes and their family members who take reasonable time off to attend court proceedings.


Victims of crime have the right to:

·                  Request a speedy trial.

·                  Provide input in a pretrial diversion decision.

·                  Object orally or in writing to a plea agreement at the plea presentation hearing.

·                  Inform the court of the impact of crime orally or in writing at the sentencing hearing.


Victims of violent crime may:

·        Apply for financial assistance (reparations) from the state if they have suffered economic loss as a result of the crime.

·        Request the court to order the defendant to pay restitution if the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty.

·        Request that a probation violation hearing be scheduled 60 days prior to the expiration of probation if restitution has not been paid.


These victims of crime have a right to:

  • Be informed of the prosecutor’s decision to decline prosecution or dismiss the case along with information about seeking a protective or harassment order at no fee.
  • Protection against employer retaliation for victims to take reasonable time off to attend order for protection or harassment restraining order proceedings.
  • Domestic abuse victims have the ability to terminate a lease without penalty.
  • Sexual assault victims can make a confidential request for HIV testing of a convicted offender.
  • Sexual assault victims do not have to pay the cost of a sexual assault examination.
  • Sexual assault victims may not be required to undergo a polygraph examination in order for an investigation or prosecution to proceed.


Recovering from crime is a complex and deeply personal process for victims, but you can help ensure they have the support they need—and inspire them to hope for future progress and healing—by making education about victims’ rights a priority for yourself and your community.

To learn more, please visit these local resources:

Cook County Attorney's Office

Victim Services

411 W 2nd St Grand Marais, MN 55604

Organization type: Prosecutor's Office

Services for victims of: All crime types

Main/office: (218) 387-3669

Click here for website

Grand Portage Reservation Tribal Council

PO Box 428

Grand Portage, MN 55605

Organization type: Tribal organization

Services for victims of: Domestic abuse/relationship abuse, Sexual assault

Specializing in: Native American community

Main/office: (218) 475-2453

Program phone: (218) 387-1237

Violence Prevention Center

21 W 2nd St

PO Box 134

Grand Marais, MN 55604

Organization type: Community-based program

Services for victims of: Domestic abuse/relationship abuse, Sexual assault, Human Trafficking

Main/office: (218) 387-1262

Program phone: (218) 387-1237

General email: [email protected]

Click here for website

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service.

Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here