Victim Advocate Unit

Being a victim of crime can be very stressful and confusing. Although people who commit crimes have legal rights, victims also have rights. In 1998, the Pennsylvania Legislature enacted the Crime Victims Act to ensure that crime victims are treated with dignity and respect and that certain specific rights are afforded to them.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala, Jr. established the Victim Advocate Unit to help ensure you know your rights as a victim of crime. This unit helps guide innocent people involuntarily swept into the criminal justice system. Our office is here to serve you.

Contact an advocate

Unit Email

victimadvocate@alleghenycountyda.us

Unit Phone

412-350-2424

Our advocates can help victims with the following:

  • Accompaniment to Court Proceedings
  • Case Status Updates
  • Connection to Local Victim Agencies
  • Criminal Justice System & Victims’ Rights Information
  • Employer, Creditor & School Intervention Assistance
  • Harassment/Intimidation Complaint Assistance
  • Notifications of Offender Status
  • Private Victim Interview Rooms
  • Restitution & Property Return
  • Security Assistance During Court Hearings
  • Transportation Assistance for Court Appearances
  • Victim Compensation Assistance
  • Victim Impact Statement Assistance

Victims' Bill of Rights

  1. To receive information concerning available services for victims.
  2. To be notified of certain significant actions and proceedings pertaining to that case.
  3. To be accompanied at all public criminal proceedings by a victim advocate, family member or another person.
  4. In cases involving personal injury crimes, burglary and crimes relating to driving under the influence which involved bodily injury, the victim may offer prior comment on the potential reduction or dropping of any charge or changing of a plea.
  5. To offer prior comment on the sentencing of a defendant to include the submission of a written and oral victim impact statement.
  6. To be restored, to the extent possible, to the pre-crime economic status through restitution, compensation and the return of property.
  7. In personal injury crimes where the offender is sentenced to a state correctional facility, to be given the opportunity to provide prior comment on and to receive state post sentencing release decisions (work release, parole, pardon or community treatment center placement) and to be provided immediate notice of escape of the offender.
  8. In personal injury crimes where the offender is sentenced to a local correctional facility, to receive notice of the release of the offender (including work release, furlough, parole or community treatment center placement) and to be provided with immediate notice if the offender escapes.
  9. Where the offender is subject to a PFA order and is committed to a local correctional facility for a violation of the order or for a personal injury crime against a victim protected by the order, to receive immediate notice of the release of the offender on bail.
  10. To receive notice when an offender is committed to a mental health facility from a state correctional institution and of the discharge, transfer or escape of the offender from the mental health facility.
  11. To have assistance in the preparation of, submission of and follow-up on financial assistance claims to the Crime Victims Compensation Program.

For more information please visit the PA Office of Victims Services website.

Protection Orders

PFA (Protection from Abuse) – A Protection from Abuse Order is a document that is signed by a judge and tells your abuser to stop the abuse or face serious legal consequences. A PFA Order offers civil legal protection from domestic violence victims of any gender.

SVPO (Sexual Violence Protection Order) – A Sexual Violence Protection Order is designed to protect victims of sexual violence from further abuse and/or intimidation by their abuser, regardless of whether criminal charges have been filed against the perpetrator.

Similar in many ways to a Protection From Abuse Order (PFA), the key difference lies in the relationship between the abuser and the victim. While PFAs require an intimate or household relationship between the two parties, a SVPO does not and is available to victims of sexual violence who are at continued risk of harm from their perpetrator.

For additional information please visit our Protection From Abuse page.

Sign Up for Notifications

The Victim Advocate Unit also offers information about how to enroll in state and county offender release notification programs when a defendant is incarcerated. These programs ensure that a victim is notified when an offender is released, transferred or escapes from county jail or state prison.

SAVIN (State Victim Notification System) is Pennsylvania’s Victim Notification System. It was created by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Institute to assist victims of crime. It is a free, confidential and automated service that helps track the status of any offender housed in a county jail or state prison within Pennsylvania. SAVIN allows Pennsylvania residents to receive real-time information about an inmate’s custody status regarding release, transfer or escape. The SAVIN system is maintained by the PA Office of the Victim Advocate.

To register for SAVIN offender information OR to register via VINELink.com

VINELink.com is a national online portal for VINE. VINE can be accessed anytime to provide the most reliable information for custody status changes.

You can also call 412-392-8582 regarding the status of an inmate in Allegheny County.

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Confidentiality

Victim information will be treated with the utmost respect for the privacy of the individual. Such communication shall be held in strict confidence.  However, there are times when the information provided by the victim is not subject to this policy. Confidentiality does not extend to information that is deemed relevant to the prosecution of the case.