All states and the federal government have passed victims’ rights laws. These laws provide victims with legal rights to be heard, informed, and present in various stages within the criminal justice system. Each victims’ rights depend on the laws of the jurisdiction where the crime is investigated and prosecuted: state, federal or tribal government, or military installation. While jurisdictions vary on how and what they provide, listed below are core victims’ rights:
- The right to be treated with fairness, dignity, sensitivity, and respect;
- The right to attend and be present at criminal justice proceedings;
- The right to be heard in the criminal justice process, including the right to confer with the prosecutor and submit a victim impact statement at sentencing, parole, and other similar proceedings;
- The right to be informed of proceedings and events in the criminal justice process, including the release or escape of the offender, legal rights and remedies, available benefits and services, and access to records, referrals, and other information;
- The right to protection from intimidation and harassment;
- The right to restitution from the offender;
- The right to privacy;
- The right to apply for crime victim compensation;
- The right to the expeditious return of personal property seized as evidence whenever possible;
- The right to a speedy trial and other proceedings free from unreasonable delay;
- The right to enforcement of these rights and access to other available remedies.
Rights afforded to victims of crime are either automatic or require a victim of crime to opt into services. Typically, victims can sign up for rights at any stage of the criminal justice process, though it most commonly happens during prosecution. If you did not elect your rights or opted-out, please know that you can change your mind at any time. To elect your rights, it is best to reach out to the agency that is currently in control of your case, for example:
1. The prosecuting attorney (during the trial phase);
2. Parole Board or other authoritative body (if offender is sentenced to prison); or
3. The Community Supervision Program (if offender is on probation or parole).
In addition to crime victims’ rights, survivors of crimes and other concerned citizens can be notified of any offenders’ custody status by registering for VINELink.
To learn about rights in your jurisdiction, visit VictimLaw, which provides a comprehensive and searchable database.
Visit our VictimConnect Resource Map for additional resources or contact the VictimConnect Resource Center by phone or text at 1-855-4-VICTIM or by chat for more information or assistance in locating services that can help you or a loved one with understanding victim’s rights.