Rights of Victims and Witnesses

The “Bill of Rights of the Victims and Witnesses of Crimes,” created under Law No. 22 of 1988, as amended, recognizes various rights in favor of victims and witnesses of crimes in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

A person who wishes to take advantage of these rights must meets certain requirements provided under Law No. 77 of 1986, known as the “Victims and Witnesses Protection Act,” as amended. The person concerned must go to the Department of Justice to receive for orientation.

The Crime Victims Compensation Office is a branch of the Department of Justice. This office serves individuals referred by the court, prosecutors, and law enforcement agencies, in cases where protection and other services are warranted for victims or witnesses.

Through this office, the Department of Justice provides, among other services and, when circumstances warrant, the following:

  • support to the court
  • arrange for transportation to the court
  • coordination or referrals to security services, such as: preventive rounds, relocation, or shelters
  • crisis intervention
  • guidance on the legal process
  • orientation and counseling
  • referrals to psychotherapeutic services
  • referrals to and coordination for services provided by other agencies

Victims and Witnesses in Judicial Proceedings and Criminal Investigations

Who is a victim?

A victim is a natural person against whom any crime contemplated in the laws of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or of the United States has been committed or attempted

Who is a witness?
In a judicial proceeding, whether civil or criminal, a person may be subpoenaed to appear before the court as a witness to provide information at the proceeding.
What is a subpoena?

A subpoena is an official document ordering a person to appear before the court to provide testimony or to present certain documents or objects, to allow the inspection of objects or places, or to appear for examination at a location other than the courtroom.

In the subpoena, the purpose of their appearance is explained to the witness. It may be served by any private person or a law enforcement officer, including the marshals of the Judicial Branch.

The subpoena may be issued by a judge and, in some cases, by the clerk of the court or by an attorney legally representing the party requesting it.

What would happen if the person does not comply with the subpoena?

The person subpoenaed must appear at the place on the date and time so indicated. Otherwise, the court may order their arrest on contempt (a crime that punishes the failure to comply with a court order) for not complying with the subpoena. When person is subpoenaed as a witness, their failure to appear before the court for any reason or due to ignorance must be explained to the court. In addition, if the person subpoenaed as a witness knows they are unable to appear, they must notify the court in advance so the necessary arrangements can be made.

What would happen if the person subpoenaed to appear as a witness lies when they testify?

Failure to comply with a protection order may result in a prison sentence, a fine, or both.

Your Title Goes HereAre there rules that regulate the payment of fees or expenses to a person subpoenaed as a witness?

governed by Law No. 338 of 1947, as amended, and the Regulations for Fixing Fees, Travel Expenses, Per Diems, and Lodging for Jurors and Witnesses in Criminal Cases. A witness may have the right to request fees, based on the available budget and under certain circumstances.

Can a person be charged with a crime for witness tampering?

The law prohibits tampering with any witnesses in a case. For this reason, there are certain acts that are considered crimes:

  • threatening a witness with inflicting physical harm on them, their family, or their property with the purpose keeping said witness from testifying
  • committing fraud or deceit to affect the testimony of any witness
  • preventing or persuading a person who is or may be a witness not to appear or testify
  • If a witness or someone else knows that a third party is engaging in such prohibited conduct, they may go to the Police or contact the Department of Justice.

Revised: February 2023