Victim Rights

Crime victims have been given basic and fundamental rights by laws passed in each state. Victims have the right to be informed of the rights and services available to them at the earliest possible time. In some states Law Enforcement provides victims with a list of rights, talks with them about their rights, and provides phone numbers for support and advocacy. Victim Advocates and Victim Services offices in the courthouse assist victims in understanding their rights.

In order for law enforcement and the judicial system to be effective, it is necessary for victims to cooperate with the legal process. Although jurisdictions may differ in application and compliance to honoring specific victim rights, examples of these rights are outlined below. 
  •  Right to be notified and informed.
    • Victim rights. Receive copy of state's Crime Victims' Rights List, including explanation and application to specific case.
    • Information about victim services in local area. Includes information about financial assistance and other social services available and how to apply for those services, including witness fees and travel reimbursement for testifying.
    • Trials and hearings, including date, time, and place.
    • Changes in court dates.
    • Final disposition of the case, including dismissal or amendment of charges.
    • Offender's arrest and release, including conditional release of defendant found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.
    • Plea agreements.
    • Lack of prosecution.
    • Notification by the parole commission of applications for parole.
  • Right to be present.
    • Victim or survivor of victim can be present.
    • At any hearing the offender attends and sentencing.
  • Right to be heard.
    • Victim, survivor of victim, or representative of victim can speak.
    • At any hearing where the offender's release is at issue, including bond hearings, sentencing, sentence computations, and parole hearings.
    • Can discuss with the district attorney's staff any proposed deferred prosecutions, plea negotiations, sentencing recommendations, or other case-related matters.
    • Present/read a Victim Impact Statement to the court at sentencing and to the parole board during decision-making process. Statement asserts harm done to victim by crime. If victim is child, mother can provide written or oral statement to court or parole board.
    • Be given consideration when is considering excluding persons from hearings and when court is considering adjourning cases.
    • May be heard in person, in writing, by a chosen representative, or by video or audio tape.
  • Right to compensation and restitution.
    • Witness fees.
    • Help with employers.
    • Crime Victims Compensation (benefits available to compensate for physical or mental injuries resulting from felony).
    • Stolen property returned.
    • Restitution.
    • Expeditious return of property when no longer needed as evidence.
  • Right to have a Victim Advocate present.
    • Victims of violent or sex crimes have right to have victim advocate (or support person) present at interviews with both prosecution and defense, at judicial proceedings.
    • Child victims of any crime have right to have victim advocate present at any court proceeding.
  • Right to protection.
    • Protection from defendant and defendant's family.
    • Secure waiting area.
    • Medical care.
    • Protection from harm and threats that come as result of cooperation with law enforcement and prosecution.
    • Protection Orders (Anti-harassment, No-Contact).
    • Right to request court order to require defendant to submit to testing for HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases in sexual assault cases. Right to records.
  • Right to records.
    • Police report. 
    • Offender's conviction records.
    • Autopsy reports.
    • HIV test results.
  • Additional rights for child victims and dependent persons.
    • Plain language.
    • Privacy.
    • Recommendations to the court.
    • Child interviews.
    • Referrals to social services.
  • Right to speedy disposition of the case.
  • Contact the Department of Justice about any concern regarding treatment as a crime victim.

Some rights may have to be requested, such as the right to have a camera in the courtroom. Courts often have Victim Rights Request Forms in the Victim Advocacy or Victim Services office in the courthouse.

Useful links:
National Center for Victims of Crime 
National Organization for Victim Assistance
Victims' Rights Laws in the States



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