We always hear about the rights of accused people and all the constitutional protections every citizen has in America. They’re all critically important rights—of course. But what about innocent victims? Do crime victims have any rights?
In Minnesota, where I practice criminal law, the legislature has given crime victims several rights. Here are some:
1. Crime victims have the right to see a written list of all the rights they have. They’re made aware of what protections and rights they have since most of us don’t know what those are. When you’re a victim and, perhaps, traumatized you need to have a simple list to follow.
2. Crime victims have a right to apply for reparations. This means to get paid back for any financial loss they may have had. It’s not only the value of stolen items but can also be medical bills, lost wages, etc.
3. Domestic abuse crime victims also have many rights:
a. They have a right to apply for a retraining order in court
b. They can get a court order for the offender to leave the home
c. Domestic abuse crime victims can also get orders to keep the offender out of their place of employment, out of the kid’s school, or out of the victim’s business
d. They can apply for an order to get custody of the children or to get parenting time from the offender
e. Crime victims can get an order for the offender to pay for child support during the criminal proceedings
f. They can also get information about battered women’s shelters, counseling, and support groups
4. Crime victims can get information about the nearest victim assistance programs
5. If the offender is charged, the crime victim has a right to be informed of and participate in the criminal prosecution in the following ways:
a. The victims can be notified and consulted about any plea negotiations to settle the case. Although the final decision is up to the prosecutor, the crime victim will be consulted and kept informed about all the details
b. Often, they will get an advocate for the pre-trial and if necessary, trial procedures. Especially, if they need to testify against the offender, the crime victim will receive counseling and support for these courtroom proceedings.
c. If the offender pleads guilty or is convicted in a trial, the victim has a right to make a statement to the court before sentencing. The statement would describe the impact the crime has made on the victim. Although the judge should not take sides during the sentencing, he can certainly take into account the effect the offender’s actions had on the victim and the family.
d. The victim can also get restitution from the offender by a court order to pay.
Have you ever been a victim? What assistance did you receive?