As a victim of a crime, you have rights that are afforded to you by state and federal regulations; though the victims' rights do vary slightly depending on state, jurisdiction, etc., the victims' rights typically followed in each state are outlined below:
Right to be Treated with Dignity, Respect, and Sensitivity: Throughout the legal process, the victim has the right to be treated with dignity, respect, and sensitivity. As a victim, you likely are impacted by the crime committed--you may have been emotionally, psychologically, financially, or physically impacted. Understanding this, you have the right to fair and courteous treatment by law enforcement and other legal officials throughout the judicial process; you deserve to be acknowledged fairly and respectfully.
As a victim, you may have the opportunity to provide a Victim Impact Statement to the judge and court before/during sentencing. Within this statement, you are allowed to discuss how the crime has personally affected your life and well-being; through your statement, you are allowed to express the personal impact of the crime--the judge can consider these statements when sentencing the offender, once convicted.
Depending on your state, prosecutors may also be required to consult you about major decisions regarding the case, such as the potential for a plea bargain, the dropping of charges, or testifying in court. One important thing to note, however, is that the criminal case against the offender is ultimately ran by the prosecuting attorney, and not by the victim.
Right to be Informed: As the victim, you have the right to be informed of any new developments or occurrences throughout the legal process, and you also have the right to be notified of different resources available to you--such as your victims' rights, recovery services, application for compensation, etc. Throughout the legal process, you have the right to contact any legal professionals involved with your case with questions or guidance through the criminal justice process.
Depending on your state, there are different methods for notifying victims of occurrences in the legal process, such as: trial dates, deposition dates, the arrest of the offender, the arraignment of the offender, appeals processes, sentencing, probation/parole hearings, release of the offender, dropping of charges, or the arrangement of a plea bargain. If you are not receiving notice of these occurrences in your case--your victims' rights may have been violated; you have the right to be informed of all occurrences and proceedings of the case.
Right to Privacy and Protection: During criminal proceedings, victims have the right to protection from intimidation, threats, or retaliation from the offender--this can be supplied through police escorts, witness protection programs, restraining orders/orders of protection, or temporary relocation. Though the specific services provided vary by state, all victims of crime have the right to feel safe and protected through the duration of legal proceedings.
Right to Apply for Compensation: Every state provides crime victim compensation for expenses paid by the victim as a result of the crime. Typically, states require victims to apply for the compensation through proof of expenses within a certain amount of time after the crime has been committed/charges have been filed. For information on how to apply for crime victim compensation, click here.
Right to Restitution from the Offender: Depending on the state and specific crime committed, the victim may have the right or ability to seek restitution from the offender. Restitution from the offender would be payment from the offender to account/repair some of the damages caused by the crime; these payments of restitution are court-ordered and can pay for property loss, or lost wages as a result of the crime.
Right to Prompt Return of Personal Property: Sometimes, the investigation of a crime requires seizure of the victim's personal property. Depending on the state or nature of the investigation, legal officials are required to return this taken property to the victim when it's no longer needed for the investigation; the return of personal property can occur faster if there are photos taken of the item(s) that can be used in place of the physical object.
Right to a Speedy Trial: Victims have the right to a fair, speedy trial by jury. The continuous delay of trial and other legal proceedings can be inconveniencing to the victim; therefore, the victim has the right to a fair trial by jury within a reasonable amount of time, given specific circumstances of the case.
Right to the Enforcement of Victims' Rights: The rights afforded to victims of crime are legally regulated to be enforced, and are to be effective for the protection and well-being of a victim through the criminal proceedings of their case. Varying by state, there are different laws and regulations on how one can assert their victims' rights, and what to do if they are violated.
Do you have any questions, concerns, or want to learn more? Visit the links below to access more information regarding victims' rights, and what to do if you believe your rights have been violated: