Victim and Witness Information

Victim Overview


According to the Minnesota Crime Victim Bill of Rights, a “victim” means “a natural person who incurs loss or harm as a result of a crime, including a good faith effort to prevent a crime, and for purposes of sections 611A.04 and 611A.045, also includes (i) a corporation that incurs loss or harm as a result of a crime, (ii) a government entity that incurs loss or harm as a result of a crime, and (iii) any other entity authorized to receive restitution under section 609.10 or 609.125. The term “victim” includes the family members, guardian, or custodian of a minor, incompetent, incapacitated, or deceased person. In a case where the prosecutor finds that the number of family members makes it impracticable to accord all of the family members the rights described in sections 611A.02 to 611A.0395, the prosecutor shall establish a reasonable procedure to give effect to those rights. 

“Victim,” therefore applies to any person who suffers personal injury or death as a direct result of:
  1. A crime 
  2. The good faith effort of any person to prevent a crime 
  3. The good faith effort of any person to apprehend a person suspected of engaging in a crime
The Otter Tail County Attorney's Office does have a victim/witness assistance program, but there are others who can also assist victims of crimes. Victims and survivors of crime may want to contact Someplace Safe at 218-739-2853 or online at www.someplacesafe.info.

Witness Overview


Minnesota law allows witnesses can receive some compensation for loss of wages, mileage, and other expenses related to attending court proceedings pursuant to a subpoena.
  1. Twenty dollars per day to a witness for attending any action or proceeding in any court or record or before any officer, person, or board authorized to take the examination of the witness. 
  2. Mileage reimbursement in the amount of 28 cents per mile for travel going to and returning from the place of attendance, to be estimated from the witness’s residence, if within the state, or from the boundary line of the state where the witness crossed the same, if from out of state. 
  3. Up to 60 dollars per day for reasonable expenses actually incurred for meals, loss of wages, and child care. This applies to witnesses for the state and witnesses attending on behalf of any defendant represented by a public defender, in either adult or juvenile proceedings. 

Right to a Separate Waiting Area in the Courthouse


The court shall provide a waiting area for victims during court proceedings which are separate from the waiting area used by the defendant, the defendant’s relatives, and defense witnesses, if such a waiting area is available and its use is practical. If a separate area is not available or practical, the court shall provide other safeguards, such as increased bailiff surveillance and victim escorts, to minimize the victim’s contact with people.

Right to Have a Support Person


Some witnesses, such as minor prosecuting witnesses and witnesses in criminal sexual conduct cases, may have a support person accompany them in court and to be present when they testify. These witnesses can be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or other supportive person at the omnibus hearing or at the trial, during the testimony of the prosecuting witness.

Witness Tampering


Tampering with a witness is a crime and should be immediately reported to the police or the judge. This can include the following:
  • Intentionally preventing or dissuading or intentionally attempting to prevent or dissuade a person who is or may become a witness from attending or testifying at any trial, proceeding, or inquiry authorized by law;
  • Intentionally coercing or attempting to coerce a person who is or may become a witness to testify falsely at any trial, proceeding, or inquiry authorized by law; 
  • Intentionally causing injury or threatening to cause injury to any person or property in retaliation against a person who was summoned as a witness at any trial, proceeding, or inquiry authorized by law, within a year following the trial, proceeding, or inquiry or within a year following the actor’s release from incarceration, whichever is later; 
  • Intentionally preventing or dissuading or attempting to prevent or dissuade, by means of force or threats of injury to any person or property, a person from providing information to law enforcement authorities concerning a crime; 
  • By means of force or threats of injury to any person or property, intentionally coerces or attempts to coerce a person to provide false information concerning a crime to law enforcement authorities; 
  • Intentionally causes injury or threatens to cause injury to any person or property in retaliation against a person who has provided information to law enforcement authorities concerning a crime within a year of that person providing the information or within a year of the actor’s release from incarceration, whichever is later. 

Failure to Obey a Subpoena and Contempt of Court


A witness who fails to obey a subpoena or who, in court, refuses to testify or otherwise disrupts or obstructs the proceeding may be held in contempt of court.

Competency


A child under ten years of age is a competent witness unless the court finds that the child lacks the capacity to remember or to relate truthfully facts respecting which the child is examined. In order to determine a witness’s competency to testify, the judge will typically ask questions of that witness to determine competency. The judge will seek to determine whether the witness can tell the difference between the truth and a lie, whether the witness understands the importance of telling the truth, and whether the witness can remember and relate the facts.

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