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1.15: Victim Rights and Assistance

  • Page ID
    43576
    • pexels-photo-923681.jpg
    • Contributed by Alison S. Burke, David Carter, Brian Fedorek, Tiffany Morey, Lore Rutz-Burri, & Shanell Sanchez
    • Professors (Criminology and Criminal Justice) at Southern Oregon University
    • Sourced from OpenOregon

    Definition of a Victim

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    [2]

    victim-impact statements. Victim-impact statements given an account by the victim, the victim’s family, or others affected by the offense that expressed the effects of the offense. [3]

    Victim Impact Statements Video: Listen and Learn

    • First, watch the youtube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ghpl4vDZ3s
    • Second, write a 500-word response about the benefits of victim-impact statements, the impact the film had on you, and any other general thoughts you had while watching.

    Victim Rights

    [4]

    Overview of Victim’s Rights

    National Center for Victims of Crime that are provided by law in most jurisdictions. Again, it is important to remember these rights vary, depending on federal, state, or tribal law.

    1. Right to be Treated with Dignity, Respect, and Sensitivity
      1. Victims generally have the right to be treated with courtesy, fairness, and care by law enforcement and other officials throughout the entire criminal justice process. This right is included in the constitutions of most states that have victims’ rights amendments and in the statutes of more than half the states.2 Victim impact statements allow crime victims, during the decision-making process on sentencing or parole, to describe to the court or parole board the impact of the crime on their lives. The victim impact statement may include a description of psychological, financial, physical, or emotional harm the victim experienced as a result of the crime. A judge may use information from these statements to help determine an offender’s sentence; a parole board may use such information to help decide whether to grant parole and what conditions to impose in releasing an offender. Many victims have reported that making victim impact statements improved their satisfaction with the criminal justice process and helped them recover from the crime. In some states, the prosecutor is required to confer with the victim before making important decisions. In all states, however, the prosecutor (and not the victim) makes decisions about the case.
    2. Right to Be Informed
      1. The purpose of this right is to make sure that victims have the information they need to exercise their rights and to seek services and resources that are available to them. Victims generally have the right to receive information about victims’ rights, victim compensation (see “Right to Apply for Compensation,” below), available services and resources, how to contact criminal justice officials, and what to expect in the criminal justice system. Victims also usually have the right to receive notification of important events in their cases. Although state laws vary, most states require that victims receive notice of the following events:
        • the arrest and arraignment of the offender
        • bail proceedings
        • pretrial proceedings
        • dismissal of charges
        • plea negotiations
        • trial
        • sentencing
        • appeals
        • probation or parole hearings
        • release or escape of the offender
    3. Right to Protection
      1. In many states, victims have the right to protection from threats, intimidation, or retaliation during criminal proceedings. Depending on the jurisdiction, victims may receive the following types of protection:
        • police escorts
        • witness protection programs
        • relocation
        • restraining orders
    4. Right to Apply for Compensation
      1. All states provide crime victim compensation to reimburse victims of violent crime for some of the out-of-pocket expenses that resulted from the crime. The purpose of compensation is to recognize victims’ financial losses and to help them recover some of these costs. All states have a cap on the total compensation award for each crime, and not all crime-related expenses are covered. To be eligible for compensation, victims must submit an application, usually within a certain period of time, and show that the losses they are claiming occurred through no fault of their own. Some types of losses that are usually covered include:
        • medical and counseling expenses
        • lost wages
        • funeral expenses
    5. Right to Restitution from the Offender
      1. In many states, victims of crime have the right to restitution, which means the offender must pay to repair some of the damage that resulted from the crime. The purpose of this right is to hold offenders directly responsible to victims for the financial harm they caused. The court orders the offender to pay a specific amount of restitution either in a lump sum or a series of payments. Some types of losses covered by restitution include:
      2. lost wages
      3. property loss
      4. insurance deductibles
    6. Right to Prompt Return of Personal Property
      1. Crime investigators must often seize some of the victim’s property as evidence for a criminal case. In most states, authorities must return such property to the victim when it is no longer needed. To speed up the return of property, some states allow law enforcement to use photographs of the item, rather than the item itself, as evidence. The prompt return of personal property reduces inconvenience to victims and helps restore their sense of security.
    7. Right to a Speedy Trial
    8. Right to Enforcement of Victim’s Rights
      1. To be meaningful, legal rights must be enforced. States are beginning to pass laws to enforce victims’ rights, and several states have created offices to receive and investigate reports of violations of victims’ rights. Other states have laws that permit victims to assert their rights in court.

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    1. The National Center for Victims of Crime. (2012). Victim's rights.victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/victims%27-rights
    2. https://www.congress.gov/bill/101st-congress/house-bill/5368 H.R.5368 - Victims' Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 101st Congress (1989-1990)
    3. victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/victims%27-rights
    4. The National Center for Victims of Crime. (2012). Victim's rights. victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/victims%27-rights
    5. National Center for Victims of Crime. (2012). victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/victims%27-rights