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Rights of Crime Victims

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The Rights of Crime Victims

Victims of crimes have a variety of rights protected by the state and federal law. These rights vary by state, however most victims of crime can depend on many of the following rights:

Right to a Criminal Complaint

Crime victims cannot personally charge individuals with crimes because only the government may bring criminal charges. Crime victims, however, do generally have the right to notify the government that a crime has been committed and to request that criminal charges are made. To report a crime, call the police. However, if you think the police might consider you to be a suspect, you should consult a lawyer first.

Right to Protection From the Accused

Crime victims have the right to be reasonably protected from further harm by the accused. This can include anonymity, protective orders, or even police protection.

Right to Notification

Crime victims have the right to know about the progress of the case. They have the right to know when the suspect is captured. In many states, victims also have the right to be notified about the status of the defendant, including the defendant's prison transfer, release or escape.

Right to Participate in the Criminal Process

Crime victims may have the right to participate in various parts of the prosecution of the defendant as long as such involvement does not infringe upon the constitutional rights of the accused. For example, crime victims generally have the right to be notified of proceedings, to be present during the trial, to testify and to be heard at sentencing. Crime victims may also have the right to be consulted before a case is dismissed or before the government enters a plea agreement with the defendant. In many states, victims also have the right to be notified about the status of the defendant, including the defendant's prison transfer, release or escape.

Right to Be Treated Fairly

Most states recognize the victim's right to be treated with fairness, compassion, and respect throughout the judicial process. Some states also extend the victim the right to be reasonably protected from the accused.

Right to Restitution

Crime victims generally have the right to restitution from those who have caused them harm. Restitution requires that a convicted criminal repay the victim for the damages they caused. The court will determine and control restitution case by case, depending on the facts and the situations of the victim and criminal.

Rights on a State By State Basis

Although most states confer the rights listed above, some states offer crime victim’s protection that other states might not have. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Right to an attorney at all proceedings
  • Release of property confiscated as evidence
  • Intervention with employers, landlords, or creditors
  • Intervention with medical or counseling services
  • Free copy of the police report
  • Compensation for loss income
  • Compensation for burial expenses

Limits on Victims’ Rights

Although the political system makes every effort to empower crime victims, the law does impose limits on how much consideration victims can receive.

First, crime victim rights cannot exceed the rights of criminal defendants. Criminal defendants have the right to confront their accusers in court. They have the presumption that they are innocent until proven guilty. They also have the right to a fair trial, so the feelings of the victims, while important, cannot control the outcome of the case.

Second, while crime victims have the right to participate in the proceedings, the duty of criminal prosecutors is to society as a whole. As a result, prosecutors still retain their discretion in making plea bargains, charges, and trial strategies.

Since criminal proceedings are designed to punish criminal defendants for their conduct, the victim’s ability to collect restitution is often limited in criminal trials. As a result, victims must often go to civil court in order to force proper restitution from the defendant.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Victim’s Rights?

The rights of the victim in a criminal case may vary by state, and according to the nature of the criminal case. If you need any advice regarding your rights, you should speak with a criminal lawyer immediately. An experienced criminal attorney can help explain your rights according to the specific laws in your area.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 10-15-2015 11:08 AM PDT

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