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Justice Services encompasses a number of functions essential to securing justice to crime victims and the community. These include the Writs, Appeals and Training Unit; the Public Integrity Unit; the Crime Victims’ Assistance Unit; the Safe Harbor Multi-Disciplinary Interview Centers; and Community Outreach.
Justice Services is managed by the Special Assistant District Attorney, who serves as the Conviction Integrity deputy. The Special Assistant also prepares legal opinions on miscellaneous subjects, prepares and edits some of our office publications, handles special civil law matters, responds to Public Records Act requests and civil subpoenas, processes requests for U Visa certifications, analyzes misconduct issues under Brady v. Maryland, and enforces Brown Act open-meeting laws. The Special Assistant serves as liaison on the Brown Act and other civil law and municipal law matters to local government attorneys who are advising the county’s ten incorporated cities and its dozens of special districts.
As the United States Supreme Court recognized in Berger v. United States, the twofold aim of the prosecutor “is that guilt shall not escape nor innocence suffer.” While the trial and appellate process contain important safeguards for those accused of crime, we recognize that the criminal justice system is a human institution and cannot be perfect.
The Special Assistant District Attorney, in his capacity as Conviction Integrity Deputy, reviews claims of factual innocence made by persons who have been convicted of a crime. The Conviction Integrity Deputy will conduct an initial inquiry to determine whether further review and/or investigation is necessary to evaluate the claim. Where appropriate, the review may include review of transcripts, evaluation of forensic evidence in light of new scientific knowledge, additional forensic tests, witness interviews, or other investigation. The Conviction Integrity process supplements the appellate process to avoid the possibility of an innocent person being punished for a crime they did not commit.
Defendants claiming that they are innocent of a crime of which they have been convicted have the initial burden to produce evidence of innocence. The request shall be made in writing to Special Assistant District Attorney Michael Schwartz, at the District Attorney’s main office address listed here listed here. The request must raise a meaningful claim of factual innocence and not be merely a request for resentencing, a reweighing of conflicting evidence or for relief from immigration consequences. The fact that claims have been previously rejected by a trial court or appellate court will not necessarily preclude further inquiry. Whether a case should be dismissed after conviction based upon factual innocence will be carefully considered by a designated review committee.
Please click here to view a 27 minute recorded episode of a “LA Round Table” where guests including Special Assistant District Attorney Michael Schwartz recently discussed conviction integrity issues.
The Crime Victims’ Assistance Unit functions to guide victims through the criminal justice process, to ensure victims’ rights are honored, and to assist victims in obtaining services to help them cope with the trauma they have suffered. Through the efforts of a dedicated team of Victim Advocates, the Victims’ Assistance Unit provides comprehensive services to victims of all types of crime.
For more information click here.
Established in 2003, the Family Violence Prevention Center located within the Hall of Justice provides victims of family violence crime with a single location where they can access governmental and non-profit services designed to help them rebuild their lives. Community based organizations such as Interface and the Coalition to End Family Violence provide mental health services and limited legal services on issues related to child custody. District Attorney Victim Advocates provide classes in both English and Spanish on the process and forms required to obtain restraining orders as well as information on the dynamics and dangers of violent relationships. The Center also provides referrals to additional community-based counseling services and local shelter programs. The Center provides counseling, restraining order and referral services to thousands victims of family violence in Ventura County.
The Public Integrity Unit evaluates and prosecutes complaints against public officials and others in a position of public trust for misappropriation of public funds and other misuse of public office. Matters handled by the unit include embezzlement by government officials or by officials of non-profit organizations, misuse of government resources, conflicts of interest, failing to report economic interests, and violations of election laws. Some violations may be referred for investigation and/or administrative action to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), which has concurrent jurisdiction with the District Attorney for violations of the Political Reform Act.
Safe Harbor Ventura County is a coalition of public and private agencies to assist investigations and provide services to victims of child physical and sexual abuse and to adult victims of sexual assault. Administered by the District Attorney’s Office, partner agencies include all law enforcement agencies in the county, Child Protective Services of the Ventura County Human Services Agency, the Coalition for Family Harmony, the Partnership for Safe Families and Communities of Ventura County, Casa Pacifica, the Ventura County Health Care Agency, and the Ventura County Medical Association.
Safe Harbor operates two Multi-Disciplinary Interview Centers (MDIC): one located in Ventura serving West County, and one in Simi Valley serving East County. The centers are located in houses that were adapted to provide comfortable, secure and confidential environments for interviews and medical examinations. The program promotes dignity and minimizes trauma for victims by reducing the number of interviews a victim must provide. Deputy district attorneys, social workers and law enforcement officers remotely observe the interviews and consult with the detective while the interview is taking place. Medical examinations are provided by certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners using state-of-the-art equipment at the center. Victim advocates and rape crisis counselors provide crisis intervention and support. Referrals are made for counseling, including in the centers’ counseling rooms. Periodic case reviews and meetings of team members help ensure that best practices are followed in child abuse and sexual assault investigations.
National Children's Alliance®, Accredited Member
The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office provides services to thousands of victims every year and seeks qualified volunteers to make an important contribution to public safety and crime victims in Ventura County. Volunteer staff complete an initial 48 hours of training, which prepares them to assist victims with certain services, including obtaining a restraining order, emergency shelter placement, and court accompaniment. Volunteer training includes the following subject areas.
For more information Click here.
The Writs, Appeals and Training Unit files and responds to writs and appeals in state courts, including the California Supreme Court, California Court of Appeal and Superior Court Appellate Division. The unit also responds to habeas corpus petitions in state and federal courts. The attorneys in the unit handle approximately 100 writs and appeals per year.
Responses to defense writs and appeals in completed felony cases are handled by the State Attorney General. The District Attorney’s Office responds to writs in felony cases that are still pending trial, writs in misdemeanor cases and misdemeanor appeals. The District Attorney’s Office also initiates and handles People’s appeals and People’s writs in misdemeanor and felony cases. The District Attorney’s Office ordinarily does not file briefs or participate in oral argument in traffic infraction cases.
The unit also coordinates the ongoing continuing education program for prosecutors, runs the training program for new prosecutors and contributes to training for District Attorney Investigators, other law enforcement agencies and at the Sheriff’s Academy.