As a crime victim, your life has already been affected in a major way, regardless of the crime. If you’re like most crime victims, your sense of safety and security has been violated and you need to feel in control again. You’ve already suffered enough and you shouldn’t have to go through more emotional pain in the pursuit of justice and victim compensation.
Criminals are read their Miranda rights by law enforcement when they are arrested. True justice requires respecting those rights. But does the average crime victim even know what their rights are?
Victims’ rights must be respected for any crime victim. Whether it’s a domestic violence case or a crime of opportunity, law enforcement and the court system have a responsibility to protect the crime victim and their rights during a criminal case. For instance, domestic violence crime victims can be in grave danger during the proceedings and deserve both transparency and protection.
Many crime victims simply aren’t aware that their rights can even be violated as the system seeks justice. Crime victims should know that law enforcement and court officials have to follow certain procedures. If they don’t, a crime victim can be entitled to additional victim compensation.
What Rights Do Victims of Crime Have?
The process of navigating court proceedings can be challenging and confusing for victims. It’s important to know your rights so you can tell if they are being violated during the criminal proceedings. Each state has its own standards for victims’ rights, but there are federal standards as well that are defined under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.
It’s a victims’ right to be protected from the accused, within reason. If a sexual assault victim was attacked by a family member, for example, law enforcement and the court would need to provide reasonable protection for the victim to ensure their safety.
Under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, victims are also entitled to notification regarding court proceedings, parole, releases, and other events regarding the case. You can’t be excluded from these proceedings (except under very specific circumstances) and you have a right to be heard at hearings, trials, and other public legal proceedings. Like criminal defendants, victims have a right to speedy hearings and trials.
You also have a right to speak with the prosecuting attorney for the state, who may be the district attorney, depending on the case. Marsy’s law, originally adopted in California and now used by many states, helps to provide additional protections.
The criminal justice process is complicated and it can take a long time to resolve cases while victims wait in suspense. Crime victims’ rights can’t fully put someone at ease while they wait to see if the accused will be suitably punished, but they are important for victims’ peace of mind, safety, and privacy.
How Your Rights as a Victim of Crime Can be Abused
As a crime victim, you already have a heavy burden to bear. Victims’ rights are in place to protect you during a vulnerable and scary time in your life. When victims’ rights are abused during the criminal justice process, it can make the entire experience even worse for the crime victim.
Law enforcement is typically the first point of contact for crime victims. If you were a crime victim in a domestic violence case and the officers decided to send the accused back home, your rights may have been abused. A crime victim has the right to reasonable protection and unfortunately, the criminal justice system sometimes fails to keep victims safe.
Even if you are provided with adequate protection, victims’ rights demand that a crime victim be treated with fairness and with respect for their dignity and privacy. Law enforcement that fails to provide this consideration may be violating your rights. Those working in the criminal justice field should have training and sensitivity in protecting crime victims, both physically and emotionally.
The criminal justice system involves many moving parts and many opportunities for victims’ rights abuse. A crime victim must advocate for their victims’ rights from the moment they give their first statement until sentencing.
The states that have passed Marsy’s law in the last few years understand what a traumatic experience being a crime victim can be. These laws have been passed to ensure that victims’ rights are as strong as those of the accused. They also protect the loved ones of victims under certain circumstances, offering them victims’ rights in acknowledgment of their experiences.
Some have asked the question about modern victims’ rights: can Marsy’s law be abused? While even most victims would agree that defendants have a right to a fair trial, it’s also important to ensure that a crime victim is treated fairly throughout the criminal justice process as well. Reliving the crime is emotionally difficult enough without victims’ rights being violated.
Getting familiar with the role of different offices in the criminal justice system, like the local police force, the court system, and the state attorney’s office can help you understand the criminal justice proceedings and your victims’ rights. Victims’ rights can be violated at different stages of the criminal justice process and you need to know what you can expect.
The Right to Restitution and Crime Victim Compensation
Aside from privacy, safety, and transparency, a crime victim may also be entitled to restitution or victim compensation. Victim compensation is provided to cover costs related to the offender’s crime. A person should never have to worry about how they will manage to pay the bills when they’ve already been the victim of a crime.
Victim compensation may be paid to cover medical bills, counseling, funeral costs, or other expenses related to the crime. This financial assistance is available as restitution to crime victims across the United States and its territories. There are state funds established to ensure that victims are not left with large expenses to deal with.
If someone needs to “pick up the pieces” after a crime has been committed, it’s unfair for the victim to pay those costs. The person responsible for the crime should not be allowed to cause harm to a person without paying for their care.
Generally, insurance is the first source of victim compensation (if it applies in the case), with the offender paying restitution or the state paying if no insurance money is available. Though a crime victim may lose property through damage or theft, victim compensation from the state is usually only awarded in violent crime cases involving injury and/or sexual assault.
The good news is that there is help out there. A victim advocate can help you to recover victim compensation so you can move on with your life. An experienced attorney can also be your victim advocate, allowing you to get a fair restitution offer.
An offender must pay their dues to both society and the crime victim. Many offenders are unable to pay for the essentials a victim may need in the wake of a crime, so state funding steps in when needed. The goal is that the offender is brought to justice and the crime victim doesn’t have to worry about bills that were the direct result of the crime.
Some people forget that a crime victim doesn’t always want monetary compensation alone. Most want closure, too, especially victims of terrible crimes like sexual assault. That’s where a victim impact statement to the offender can help—by allowing the crime victim to speak directly to the person who hurt them.
What Can I Do if My Rights are Violated?
Now that you know the rights you’re entitled to, it’s important to be aware of any that might have been violated. Remember that your rights might not just be abused as a crime victim but for other reasons as well. A civil rights violation or sexual harassment, for instance, can both occur during the course of the criminal justice proceedings.
If you or your family believes that there has been a victims’ rights or civil rights violation during the investigation and prosecution of a crime, there are resources to help you. Victims of federal crimes can reach out to the Crime Victims’ Rights Ombudsman service for assistance, but victims of state crimes may need to reach out to their Attorney General for assistance.
The best way to proceed if there has been a victims’ rights or civil rights violation is to consult with an experienced attorney. A lawyer can evaluate your case and ensure that your complaint is valid under the law. They will also help you file any necessary complaints and represent you in asserting your rights.
A good lawyer will be your advocate every step of the way. If you need help from an attorney in the Miami, FL, area with experience in victims’ rights, consider giving us a call at Hannon Law Group. We help victims recover compensation so they can get peace of mind and closure after a crime.
At Hannon Law Group, we fight passionately for victims’ rights. The legal system should protect victims, not make their lives harder. To talk with an exceptional lawyer at our Miami office, call 305-358-3109 or fill out our online contact form today.