THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY S OFFICE, THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, IN ADDITION, YOU!

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1 THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY S OFFICE, THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, IN ADDITION, YOU! T his manual is designed by the Office of Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley. It is intended to provide an overview of the District Attorney s Office, the courts, information about resources available from or through the District Attorney s Office to victims of crime, recommendations for how residents may help themselves create a safer community, and contact information in the event of an emergency. Identifying the safety needs of your community, knowing what you can do as a member of your community to promote safety, and understanding what resources are available to you through your local government and law enforcement will allow you to better protect yourself, your family and your neighborhood from becoming the victims of crime. It is the sincere hope of Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley that this manual will encourage you to take a proactive role in contributing to the overall safety of our community. It is important to remember that while this manual recommends and encourages proactive measures toward creating a safer community, it does not suggest nor does it condone vigilantism. The power granted to law enforcement is very much the sole province of law enforcement. The clear delineation of power notwithstanding, we all work as partners toward a common goal; and that goal is to create a safer environment for our families, our fellow residents, and ourselves. 1

2 THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY S OFFICE Staff and their Roles The Suffolk County District Attorney s Office is composed of a multitude of personnel. Most of these personnel are assigned to units and divisions that prosecute specific types of crime. The following describes SCDAO positions, units and divisions: - District Attorney The District Attorney is an elected official. As the county s chief prosecutor, he is responsible for overseeing the prosecution of all criminal cases brought on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Suffolk County. - Assistant District Attorney Also called a prosecutor, Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) are appointed by the District Attorney. The ADA is responsible for building and prosecuting criminal cases, in the name of the District Attorney, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. - Victim Witness Advocate A Victim Witness Advocate works, through the District Attorney s Office, with victims and witnesses of violent crimes and their families. A Victim Witness Advocate is a trained crisis-intervention professional who assists a victim from shortly after a violent crime occurs, whether it is solved or unsolved. Advocates also provide referrals, education, and resources to those looking to connect with social service agencies. They also provide emotional support and information about the criminal court process in the event of a criminal prosecution. 2

3 - Civilian Investigators Civilian Investigators are responsible for investigating cases on behalf of the District Attorney s Office. Since they are civilians, they are not part of the Police Department and cannot make arrests. During the course of an investigation, you may be asked to speak with an investigator regarding what you saw as a victim or as a witness. Units and Divisions - District and Municipal Court Division As part of its overall mission of serving victims and protecting citizens of the county, District Attorney Daniel F. Conley s Office maintains a presence in nine district and municipal courts throughout Suffolk County. Operated by the Trial Court of the Commonwealth, these courts have jurisdiction over misdemeanors and some felonies, and most of the criminal cases handled by our office are resolved here. Each district courthouse has a team of assistant district attorneys, victim witness advocates, investigators, and administrative staff who are dedicating to serving victims and their families while holding criminal offenders accountable. The City of Boston has eight municipal courts. They are located in the downtown area, Brighton, Charlestown, Dorchester, East Boston, South Boston, Roxbury, and West Roxbury. Cases arising in Winthrop are directed to East Boston, while Chelsea District Court serves the cities of Chelsea and Revere. - Superior Court, Juvenile, and Appellate Divisions Most felonies committed in Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop are tried in Suffolk Superior Court, located in the Suffolk County Courthouse in Pemberton Square, near Government Center. District Attorney 3

4 Conley s office determines which cases go to Superior Court where convictions result in punishments that are more severe based on the gravity and complexity of the crime committed or the criminal history of the defendant. Additionally, serious crimes committed by defendants under age 17 are adjudicated in the Boston Juvenile Court, located in the Edward Brooke Courthouse on New Chardon Street, and legal arguments related to appeals of previous convictions are heard before the Massachusetts Appeals Court or the Supreme Judicial Court, both located in the John Adams Courthouse in Pemberton Square.. The district attorney s Superior Court Division is comprised of several specialized units, most dedicated to a particular type of crime. The prosecutors, advocates, investigators, and administrative staff assigned to these units are highly trained men and women who are dedicated to achieving justice for victims and their families. They will often assist district court prosecutors with especially complex cases. - Appellate Unit Members of the Appellate Unit work hand in hand with other prosecutors to ensure that the cases and evidence brought before Suffolk County juries are strong enough to withstand review by the Massachusetts Appeals Court, the state s Supreme Judicial Court, and even the Supreme Court of the United States. They work to defend verdicts and judgments won by Suffolk County prosecutors and oppose challenges made by defendants. - Elders and Persons with Disabilities Unit The staff of the Elders and Persons with Disabilities Unit works with older adults and persons with physical or developmental disabilities who have been victims of crime. Prosecutors and advocates know the importance of 4

5 investigating and trying these cases in such a way as to maintain the dignity of the victims while ensuring that offenders are held accountable for their crimes. While crime can affect anyone regardless of age, some offenders target senior citizens with financial scams that can have a terrible impact on one s finances and savings. EPDU prosecutors and advocates are familiar with many of these schemes and work to prevent, as well as prosecute, them. - Family Protection and Sexual Assault Unit The Family Protection and Sexual Assault Unit encompass the Child Abuse, Domestic Abuse, and Sexual Assault Units. These units investigate and prosecute some of the most challenging cases handled by the office, and are committed to resolving them with discretion and compassion for the victims. Prosecutors, advocates, and investigators assigned to the FPSAU know it is often difficult for victims to report intimate partner violence or child abuse, and they are dedicated to making the process as safe and streamlined as possible for victims. - Homicide The death of a loved one by violence can be among the most devastating experiences a person can face. Homicide prosecutors and victim advocates are among the most skilled and experienced members of our staff, and they know how vulnerable a family can be in such a difficult hour. They are committed to speaking for the victim and his or her loved ones in a court of law, ensuring that the deceased is not forgotten, and holding the offender accountable. Members of the Homicide Unit, among the most experienced staff members in the office, work closely with local and State Police investigators throughout the course of a homicide investigation to build strong cases that will identify and hold accountable those responsible. 5

6 - Gang Unit/Safe Neighborhood Initiative Unit (SNI) Members of the Gang Unit and the Safe Neighborhood Initiative (SNI) Units work to keep our communities safe and free from gang-related violence. Working closely with specialized police units, they fight criminal organizations at the street level and beyond, focusing on the gun and drug cases that often accompany gang-affiliated offenders. Embracing the strategy of community-based prosecutions under which prosecutors build strong relationships with neighborhood and civic groups and empower citizens to help authorities devise public safety strategies members of these units attend regular community meetings and work to address residents concerns. District Attorney Conley feels strongly that Suffolk County s neighborhoods should belong to the decent and lawabiding people who live, work, and raise their families there, and the Gang Unit and SNI program work to assist them. - Juvenile Unit The Juvenile Unit, whose cases are heard in the Boston Juvenile Court, handles most cases in which the offender is age 16 or younger. Because these cases often involve a young victim as well, Juvenile Unit staff members are skilled at communicating with young people and answering their families questions. The juvenile justice system is slightly different from the one that adjudicates adults, and its prosecutors are able to balance the factors of punishment, deterrence, and rehabilitation effectively to serve the victim and the common good. - Narcotics and Asset Forfeiture Unit Few criminal offenses are as insidious and damaging to individuals, families, and communities as the sale of illegal drugs. Prosecutors in the Narcotics Unit work to decrease the presence of illegal drugs such as crack, cocaine, heroin and marijuana, as well as illegal sales of pharmaceutical drugs like OxyContin. Targeting offenders ranging from 6

7 street-level dealers all the way up to highly organized drug distribution networks, the Narcotics Unit works to disrupt the availability of drugs throughout Suffolk County. Under state law, police and prosecutors may seize the proceeds of drug sales that the Asset Forfeiture program works to ensure are properly confiscated and then re-invested in law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve. Every year, District Attorney Conley uses a portion of the seized money to award grants totaling tens of thousands of dollars to non-profit groups who work to keep young people away from drugs, gangs and risky behavior. - Special Prosecutions Unit The Special Prosecutions Unit investigates and prosecutes cases of whitecollar crime, economic fraud, computer-related crimes, political corruption, and related offenses. The Computer Crime Division of the SPU handles crimes committed on or with the use of computers and the Internet, including the rising number of cases involving on-line child enticement, and spearheads District Attorney Conley s Internet Safety Program for schoolchildren of the county. The current chief of the SPU also serves as the Chairman of the Board of Regents of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. 7

8 Victim Services It is not unusual for victims, witnesses, and families of victims of crime to feel scared and alone while they are part of the trial process. The Victim Witness Advocate Program of the Office of Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley is dedicated to advocating on behalf of and accompanying victims, witnesses, and families of victims throughout the trial process. The following questions have been frequently asked by those who have been either a victim of, or a witness to a crime. If you have a question that is not on this list, please feel free to contact the Victim Witness Advocate Program at (617) General Services Services for victims and family of crime victims range from therapy through victim compensation. The District Attorney s Office, together with several partnering agencies, offers a wide range of services to victims and families of victims. A comprehensive list may be obtained by contacting Victim Services. - Victim Compensation The Commonwealth of Massachusetts provides financial compensation to victims for certain out-of-pocket expenses directly resulting from violent crime. This program has strict eligibility requirements. If you have been the victim of a violent crime and have suffered physically or psychologically, contact a Victim Witness Advocate to see if you are eligible for compensation. - Victim Rights According to Massachusetts State Law, victims and family of victims of crime have certain rights to which they are entitled. At the end of this manual, you will find the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Victim Bill 8

9 of Rights. There are a variety of laws which protect victims and entitle them to be informed of every aspect of the Commonwealth s case against the defendant who did them harm. - Safety Planning The Suffolk County District Attorney s Office, through Victim-Witness Advocates, encourages and participates in community sessions, which help residents discuss effective safety plans. The meetings focus on issues from general precaution to emergency action. This program is conducted in partnership with the local police department and collaborating community agencies. 9

10 Court Topics Defined The following terms are frequently used during the criminal trial process. Familiarity with these terms and steps may allow your involvement in the process to be less daunting. Again, any and all questions about the process may be explained by the Victim Witness Advocate assigned to the case. - Arraignment The first court appearance of the accused where the complaint or indictment of the accused is formally read. Having heard the charges against him/her the accused then enters a plea to the charges after which bail and other potential release conditions are set. - Bail Bail is an amount of money or property sometimes required by a judge to be paid to the court by the defendant to guarantee the defendant s future attendance in court. It is set by the judge and, if satisfied by the defendant, will allow the defendant to be released while awaiting trial. - Probation Probation is a sentence where a judge grants the freedom of a defendant as long as the defendant follows certain rules set as conditions of his/her release. Usually, breaking the conditions of probation results in imprisonment. - Witness Intimidation Program In an attempt to dissuade potential witnesses from speaking to the police or testifying in court, violent offenders have threatened victims, witnesses, and/or family of victims and witnesses. District Attorney Conley has not only taken a public stand against the perpetrators of witness intimidation by denouncing their actions, but has also supported legislation to address 10

11 the problem. The witness intimidation program is a protective program that places the potential witness in a safe environment through the course of a trial. The purpose of the program is to encourage witnesses to perform their civic duty in helping the state effectively prosecute criminal offenders. - Grand Jury Process When the District Attorney s Office seeks to indict an offender for a crime(s), it presents evidence to the Grand Jury a group of 23 citizens whose duty it is to receive complaints and hear evidence in criminal cases, as presented by the prosecutor, in order to determine if there is sufficient evidence to charge an individual with a crime. This session is closed to the public. - Citizenship Status The Suffolk County District Attorney s Office is charged with the responsibility of prosecuting crimes against the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The District Attorney s Office encourages the members of the community to step forward and report any crime regardless of a victim s or witness citizenship status. Specific questions regarding victims rights may be directed to a Victim-Witness Advocate at the Suffolk County District Attorney s Office. - Crime Watch Programs Crime Watch Groups are an excellent way for residents to keep the area in which they live safer. The organization of a Crime Watch Group allows residents of a community to identify and report and unusual or suspicious behavior to the police. While police try to respond to all emergency calls, they cannot reasonably be expected to observe every criminal incident. 11

12 Community Programs and Curricula The Suffolk County District Attorney s Office offers several programs geared to educating the public on aspects of the criminal justice system. These presentations may be tailored to adult and youth audiences and offer a unique perspective on current crime issues specific to your community. If you are interested in arranging any of the following presentations for your group or organization, please contact the Community Relations Department of SCDAO at (617) or via at - Project Strength and Spirit A multi-agency effort to expand, enhance, and deepen existing victims/witness services through collaboration among faith-based organizations and traditional service providers to help victims and witnesses stay safe during prosecutions of violent offenders. The Project uses the power of the community itself to change attitudes and behavior in support of victims and witnesses, while turning against violent offenders threatening the well-being and safety of our communities. - Understanding Violence This Program was created as a partnership with the Suffolk County District Attorney s Office, the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General, and The Mirror Project. The Understanding Violence curriculum is an example of the District Attorney Conley s philosophy of education and outreach to young people as an effective crime prevention tool. This curriculum has become an important part of the District Attorney s educational programs. - Internet Safety One of District Attorney Conley s top priorities is the protection of children. The District Attorney has taken a progressive approach toward the prevention of crimes affecting children that use the internet. Some of 12

13 the initiatives have included creating a Computer Crime Division as part of the Suffolk County District Attorney s Office Special Prosecutions Unit, launching an Internet site for the District Attorney s Office including a number of pages dedicated to Internet Safety, and encouraging the creation of a community outreach curriculum which allows for discussion and demonstration of proper Internet Safety. - Domestic Violence Hotlines The District Attorney s Office provides services for victims of Domestic Violence (DV). In addition to calling the DA s office in order to report DV crimes, the victim should also know that there are several resources available. The following is a list of available resources in Suffolk County: The Family Justice Center (617) SafeLink (statewide hotline) (877) Jane Doe, Inc. (617) Casa Myrna Vazquez (800) F.I.N.E.X. House (617) Harbor COV (617) Renewal House (617) Elizabeth Stone House (617) DSS Domestic Violence Unit (617) Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (617) Teen Dating Violence Intervention Project (617) Greater Boston Legal Services (617) Fenway Community Health Center (800) The Network/La Red (Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) (617) 423-SAFE Gay Men's Domestic Violence Project (800) Elder Abuse Hotline (800) Disabled Abuse Hotline (800) Child at Risk Hotline (800)

14 Contact Numbers District Attorney s Office Contact Numbers Main Office (617) Child Abuse Unit (617) Domestic Violence Unit (617) Elders & Persons with Disabilities Unit (617) Gang Violence Unit (617) Homicide Unit (617) Juvenile Unit (617) Sexual Assault Unit (617) Victim Witness Advocacy Program, Director (617) Interpreters (617) Community Relations, Director (617) Police Department Information Suffolk County houses the cities of Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop. Each of these cities has their own police department. Within Boston, depending on where you live, you will want to have the contact information for the closest police department to you residence. The following list provides contact numbers for the police: Chelsea Police Department: (617) Revere Police Department: (617) Winthrop Police Department: (617) MBTA Police: (617) Boston Police Department: (617) District A-1 (Downtown/Charlestown/Beacon Hill) (617) District A-7 (East Boston) (617) District B-2 (Roxbury/Mission Hill) (617) District B-3 (Mattapan/North Dorchester) (617) District C-6 (South Boston) (617) District C-11 (Dorchester) (617) District D-4 (Back Bay/South End/Fenway) (617) District D-14 (Allston/Brighton) (617) District E-5 (West Roxbury/Roslindale) (617) District E-13 (Jamaica Plain) (617) District E-18 (Hyde Park) (617)

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