Protecting victims of violent crimes—understanding the rights of a violent crime victim.
When a violent crime occurs, the prosecutor represents the state during the criminal prosecution, the defense attorney or public defender represents the defendant, so who then ensures that a victim is not re-victimized by the criminal proceedings? Up until recently, there was no system in place to ensure that victims of violent crimes were treated fairly and had some say in the criminal proceeding. Now, however, every state and the federal government have adopted different versions of what is known as the “Victims’ Rights Act” or “The Victims’ Bill of Rights.” While not every state uses the same wording, they all generally accord victims’ the same rights.
Similarly, in almost every state, it is up to the prosecution to ensure that these rights are protected. If a victim feels like their rights are being violated, each state has a different process for redressing any type of victims’ rights violation. Under Utah law (Utah Code 77-37-3), any victim of a violent crime has the right to: (1) be informed as to the level of protection from the defendant they are receiving; (2) be informed as their role in the criminal process; (3) be given explanations of the relevant legal proceedings; (4) seek restitution or reparations for any harm caused by the defendant; and (5) be informed of the date and time of judicial proceedings so that they may attend if they wish to. Under the federal Victims’ Rights Act (18 USC § 3371), which was established in 2004, the victim has the right to: (1) be reasonably protected from the accused; (2) be notified reasonably and accurately the time and place of any criminal proceedings; (3) not to be excluded from any public proceedings unless necessary; (4) be reasonably heard at any of the criminal proceedings; (5) confer with the attorney for the Government; (6) seek full restitution; (7) have the proceedings be free from unreasonable delay; and (8) be treated with fairness and respect.