In our last article, we learned about the history of victim's rights and how they changed the way crime victims participate in the criminal justice system. Unlike the defendant's rights, few people know their rights as victims and lack an understanding of how those rights work within the criminal justice system. Protecting and enforcing victims' rights starts with education and awareness. Learn about your rights and what you are entitled to during the criminal justice process.
Right to Be Informed
One of the most fundamental rights of a crime victim is the right to be kept informed. Victims cannot be proactive and participate unless they are informed of their rights and the logistics and outcomes of relevant criminal justice proceedings where they can exercise these rights. Victims also have a right to be notified when the accused or convicted person is released from custody or has escaped.
The Right to Attend
Crime victims and their families have the right to be present during all criminal justice proceedings where the defendant has the right to be present. Victims need to have the opportunity to be present and see the criminal justice system at work.
Right to be Heard
A crucial component of rights for crime victims is the right to address the court during criminal justice proceedings. By submitting a victim impact statement, the victim has an opportunity to speak on the effect the criminal behavior and actions had on their life, family, and overall wellbeing. For others to listen to their story in a court of law validates their experience and shows the harm suffered.
Right to Compensation, Restitution, and Return of Property
Victims, including surviving or affected family members, can be reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses related to the crime. There are eligibility requirements, and victims need to apply to the compensation program.
Restitution is a court-ordered payment to restore the harm and damage caused by the defendant to the victim. Restitution can also entail the return or repair of stolen or damaged property.
Victims also have a right to have their property, whether stolen or seized for evidentiary reasons, returned following criminal proceedings.
Right to Privacy and Protection
Victims who are already traumatized by the crime may be concerned for their safety and hesitant to participate in the criminal justice process. The victim bill of rights addresses these concerns. It provides victims with certain protections, including the right to privacy of personally identifiable information such as their address, phone number, email, etc. Victims also have access to specific protective measures to ensure they are safe during criminal proceedings.
Right to a Speedy Trial
Victims have the right to a trial or disposition without delays and a prompt conclusion of the case after conviction and sentencing.
Right to Enforcement/Remedies of Victims
Even though these rights are afforded to victims by Arizona's constitution, they provide no support for victims unless they are enforced. While this responsibility lands on several players within the criminal justice system, victim advocates are the primary enforcers of these laws and provide victims with access to information and facilitate their participation in this process.
When victims of crime receive the services and support they need, they are more likely to remain engaged in their community. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office is committed to supporting and seeking justice for all victims of crime. Our office provides a wide range of services to empower crime victims and make sure their voice is heard during all the stages of a criminal case.
To learn more about victims' rights visit, victimlaw.org/victimlaw/pages/victimsRight.