Prop D
Victim and Witness Rights
Initiative Ordinance
Victim and Witness Rights

Establishes an Office of Victim and Witness Rights in San Francisco and plans for the establishment of a right to counsel to provide legal services for victims of domestic violence in civil cases.

Vote YES

Jump to SPUR’s Recommendation

What the Measure Would Do

Proposition D would establish a new city department known as the Office of Victim and Witness Rights, which would coordinate city services for victims and witnesses of crime. Within one year, the office would be required to submit a plan to consolidate all programs across city agencies that provide such services so they could operate through one central office. This measure would not allocate any funds to create or operate this new office; the functioning of the office would depend on future budget allocations through the Board of Supervisors. Prop. D also would not provide the new office the authority to move existing programs under its purview, so it’s possible that this office would only add new services and not consolidate existing services.

The Office of Victim and Witness Rights would be required to survey those who receive its services, gather data on requested services and make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on how to serve unmet needs. The office would report to the mayor, and the Board of Supervisors would have the authority to modify its duties by ordinance.

Prop. D would also task the Office of Victim and Witness Rights with creating a plan to establish a right to counsel for victims of domestic violence. If implemented by the Board of Supervisors (and subject to ongoing budget appropriations through the annual city budget process), this right to counsel would provide no-cost legal services in civil proceedings to those who have been victims of domestic violence. Such civil proceedings would include securing and enforcing restraining orders, child custody and visitation suits, and proceedings related to divorce or access to housing. Legal representation in criminal cases is already provided by the district attorney’s office and is free to the alleged victim.1

The Backstory

One in three Californians has been a victim of a crime in the last 10 years, and only one in five of those victim’s reports receiving the services needed.2 Young, low-income people of color are more likely to experience victimization.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office currently houses the Victim Services Division, which helps victims and their families in the aftermath of a crime, during criminal prosecution and after a verdict has been reached. It advocates on behalf of victims and streamlines the process for collecting restitution and securing compensation for financial losses when possible. The services offered by the division are only available to victims whose cases reach a jury trial, not to individuals who choose not to make a criminal report.

In addition to the Victim Services Division, San Francisco also provides services to victims and witnesses of crime through the Department of Public Health, Department on the Status of Women, Human Rights Commission and Office of Economic and Workforce Development. Several state and local nonprofit organizations also support victims and witnesses of crime. These services would not be impacted by this measure.

Victims of domestic violence often need to navigate a complicated legal system to protect themselves and their families. While the district attorney is responsible for filing criminal charges against an assailant, the victim needs to manage numerous other bureaucratic processes related to restraining orders, child custody and visitation rights, divorce, housing access and immigration status. Many victims of domestic violence cannot afford the services of an attorney, and this measure would be a first step in providing these victims access to the no-cost legal support they need in civil cases.

This initiative ordinance was placed on the ballot by the Board of Supervisors. As an ordinance, it requires a simple majority (50% plus one vote) to pass.

Equity Impacts

Young, low-income people of color are more likely to be victims of crime and would benefit from the efficient provision and coordination of victim services, as well as from access to the no-cost legal services that this measure aims to provide.


  • An Office of Victim and Witness Rights could deliver support to victims more effectively through consolidated programs under its purview.
  • An office that is separate from both the Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office could allow victims and witnesses to limit their engagement with law enforcement if desired.
  • If implemented by the Board of Supervisors, the right-to-counsel plan would provide no-cost legal services in civil cases to victims of domestic violence, which would benefit those who would otherwise struggle to pay for or navigate legal services on their own.
  • The measure’s language would allow the Board of Supervisors to make future changes to the responsibilities of the Office of Victim and Witness Rights.


  • The measure would require the city to create a new department without a dedicated funding source to cover the costs of operating the department.
  • While the measure aims to consolidate services, these services would still be provided by other city and state departments and nonprofits. The measure would simply set up a structure so that consolidation could potentially occur in the future.
  • The creation of a new department could be accomplished legislatively and does not need to be on the ballot.
SPUR's Recommendation

Even though Prop. D does not dedicate funding to start a new city office or to operate it, the concept of creating a new Office of Victim and Witness Rights in order to connect people with resources and to consolidate a fragmented network of services is sound. Furthermore, starting this new office would enable plans to establish a right to counsel for victims of domestic violence in civil cases, potentially supporting some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Vote YES on Prop D - Victim and Witness Rights

1 National Center for Victims of Crime, “Criminal and Civil Justice,” https://victimsofcrime.org/criminal-and-civil-justice/.

2 Californians for Safety and Justice, California Crime Survivors Speak: A Statewide Survey of California Victims' Views on Safety and Justice, 2019, https://safeandjust.org/wp-content/uploads/ASJ_CACrimeSurvivorBrief-RD1-1.pdf.