Every state has a set of basic rights and protections for victims of crime called a ‘victim’s bill of rights’. In many cases, a victim’s entitlement to a right depends on the seriousness of the crime. In some states, basic rights are afforded only to victims of felonies, while in other states victims of any violent crime, felony or misdemeanor are entitled to such rights. In a number of states, rights have also been extended to include victims of juvenile offenders.
In addition to the crime victim, victim’s rights may often be exercised by a family member of a homicide victim, or the parent, guardian or relative of a minor, disabled, or incompetent victim. In some states, a victim’s legal representative or another person designated by the victim may exercise rights on the victim’s behalf.
- The right to notification of the proceedings in the criminal process
- The right to attend and/or participate in criminal justice proceedings
- The right to notification of other legal remedies
- The right to protection from intimidation and harassment
- The right to notice of the release or escape of the offender
- The right to privacy, including confidentiality of records
- The right to speedy trial provisions
- The right to discuss the case with the Prosecutor
- The right to prompt return of the victim’s personal property seized as evidence from the offender
- Victim Compensation and Restitution
Many states give the victims or their families the right to be notified of important criminal proceedings and the outcome of the proceedings. Usually, the victim’s rights include the right to attend the trial, sentencing and parole hearing of the offender. Victims also typically have the right to make a oral or written statement at sentencing or at a parole hearing. Every state has a victim compensation program to provide financial assistance to victims, and in some cases family members or other eligible persons. Usually a victim must have suffered actual physical harm or other tangible loss, and the financial loss caused by such harm or loss must exceed a minimum dollar amount.
In addition to compensation, victims often have the right to restitution, payment by the convicted offender for the harm caused by the crime. The court generally orders restitution at the time of sentencing. A lawsuit in civil court is usually required to recover punitive damages.