What does a legal advocate do?
Have you read about "legal advocacy" as a service that Sojourner provides, but wondered what that actually means? Legal advocacy can make a big difference in a victim/survivor's ability to use the criminal justice system to increase their safety. A legal advocate can assist victims by helping them understand their options, by providing an informational bridge between victims and court services and with ongoing safety planning as victim’s risk accelerates or lessens while their case progresses.
Clients may be involved in the legal system in a variety of ways. They may have a case in Criminal court because their abuser was arrested; they may petition Civil court for additional help with protective orders, custody, and divorce or housing matters and if child protection or other children’s legal issues emerge, clients become immersed in Juvenile court. Victims often find themselves navigating more than one court system at a time following an arrest for a domestic assault. All Court systems are complex, intimidating, and confusing. A legal advocate can be a steady and informed companion for victims as they move through the process.
The role of advocates also includes educating the community about the plea and sentencing factors that weaken outcomes for victims, lessening their safety and denying the justice they deserve and that communities want for victims of domestic violence. Pressure to settle criminal cases without the time and expense of a trial can result in a plea to a lesser charge or with additional charges being dropped. Unfortunately, this means that an abuser's record may not reflect the seriousness of their crime and the response that is built into the system for repeat convictions of domestic assault charges (called enhancability) is not always utilized.
Are you experiencing domestic violence and want to know more about your legal options? Call our 24/7 crisis line at 952-933-7422 and ask to be connected with a community legal advocate for free and confidential support.