Today, all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam have acts protecting crime victims’ rights. These acts give crime victims respect, protection, and compensation for crimes against them. In 2004, the U.S. Congress passed its own Victims’ Rights Act for victims of federal crimes.
Crime victims’ rights acts also give victims a platform for recognition within the judicial system. Before these acts, many victims got lost in the system and had to suffer in silence. The rights given by the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights to those accused of crimes often dominated the victims’ financial and personal losses.
With the enactment of crime victims’ rights acts across the country, victims no longer have to feel they’re alone and marginalized. Crime victims now have a say in the administration of justice as it applies to the accused and to themselves.
Basic crime victims’ rights now include:
- The right to dignified and respectful treatment by prosecutors and law enforcement
- The right to reasonable protection from the person or persons accused of the crime
- The right to notification of court proceedings and parole hearings
- The right to speak at court when the accused is entering a plea or receiving a sentence
- The right to speak at court hearings when probation is under consideration
- The right to speak at parole hearings dealing with the convict’s early release from prison
- The right to speak with the prosecutor about issues related to your case
- The right to restitution from the victim for your damages (Damages include medical bills, counseling fees, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, replacement costs of damaged or stolen property, and other financial losses related to the crime.)
Beginning the Process
Your journey begins once the authorities arrest and charge the person or persons they believe perpetrated the crime. In many cases, especially those involving violent criminal acts like aggravated assault, sexual assault, and robbery, the authorities will let you know they arrested the person who allegedly committed the crime against you and arraigned him before a magistrate. Make sure you write down the prosecutor’s name, telephone number, and email address.
Tell the prosecutor you want to be notified of court proceedings involving the accused. Ask to meet with the prosecutor to explain how the crime has affected you personally and financially. Let her know you’ll prepare a list of the financial losses you sustained at the hands of the accused and will deliver it to her office as soon as possible.
Make sure the prosecutor knows you would like a consultation before she makes any agreement regarding the outcome of the case, especially about matters directly related to the amount of restitution the accused has to pay to compensate you for your losses.
Crime Victims’ Compensation Funds
Today, each state and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam have a form of crime victims’ compensation fund. These funds are available to compensate victims for losses suffered because of a crime. Taxpayers don’t pay for these funds, they come from the fines and restitution the court orders the convict to pay as a result of plea bargaining or sentencing.
If you suffered losses (damages) from a crime, you have the right to apply for compensation from your state or county victims’ compensation fund. The prosecutor in your case will help you access the fund. You can base your compensation either on court-ordered restitution by the defendant, or an independent claim you make to the fund itself.
It’s very important to have your financial losses well-documented. Make sure you have receipts for medical and counseling bills. If you missed work while receiving treatment for injuries from a violent crime, obtain a written letter from your employer (on company letterhead) verifying the dates you missed work and the amount of wages you lost as a result.
If while getting treatment for your injuries, attending court hearings or meetings with the prosecutors or law enforcement, you had to pay for childcare, make sure you bring receipts that directly correlate to the dates and times of the meeting or court hearings. Take photos of any personal property damage. Attach receipts for the repair or replacement of broken doors, windows, stolen stereo equipment, computers, etc.
Don’t forget, the prosecutor is on your side. While the defendant has to hire an attorney or use a court-appointed one, your attorney is free. The prosecutor represents you and the people of your community. She is your lawyer, and her duty is to convict the accused and to advocate on your behalf. Her duty is to do everything reasonably possible to make you whole, while protecting your rights.
To access your state’s victims’ compensation fund, go here:
National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards
Qualifying for crime victims’ compensation
Before applying to your state or district’s victims’ compensation fund, you need to meet certain guidelines. The following guidelines are a general reference. Your state’s requirements may be different.
- You must have sustained verifiable financial losses (damages), which can include your medical bills, mental health counseling costs, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, child care costs, and property repair or replacement (broken doors or windows, stolen property, etc.) Victims’ compensation funds do not cover pain and suffering.
- You must have cooperated with law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and their investigators.
- You mustn’t have contributed to the crime directly or by provoking the accused.
- You must have notified the police within a “reasonable” amount of time after the crime occurred.
- You must submit your compensation claim within your state’s required time limitations.
Unfortunately, crime victims’ rights acts do not cover collateral losses. Collateral losses include psychological injuries and financial losses your victimization causes another person.
Example: Limits of victim compensation
Adrian was the victim of an armed robbery. The trauma Adrian suffered from the robbery made him anxious, depressed, and withdrawn. Before the robbery, Adrian and Susie had a strong and happy relationship. After the robbery, they began to experience problems. Susie began to suffer depression brought on by Adrian’s behavior. To cope, Susie saw a mental health counselor, costing several thousand dollars.
It’s clear Susie’s newly diagnosed depression along with the money she paid for counseling linked to Adrian’s victimization. Unfortunately, the victims’ rights act probably doesn’t cover Susie’s psychological and financial damages.
Victim Impact Statements
Once the jury or judge convicts the defendant in your case, and before he receives his sentence, you have the right to address the defendant in open court. A victim impact statement is the basis for your court address. It’s your written description of how the crime affected you and your loved ones.
In your statement, you can speak about the financial, social, medical, and psychological losses you suffered because of the defendant’s criminal act. In most cases, victims use impact statements in felony trials, often for violent crimes.
Your victim impact statement can accomplish two things. First, it’s healing, helping you find some form of closure. Second, it helps the judge or jury take into account your damages before sentencing the defendant, so they can base their sentence accordingly.
If you don’t want to appear personally, the judge will read your written impact statement privately and then sentence the defendant. If you live in a state that permits juries to sentence defendants, the judge can make your statement available to the jury.
Today, more than ever before, state and federal judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officials recognize crime victims’ rights. Victims’ rights acts, victims’ compensation funds, and victim impact statements afford crime victims the right to speak and to receive compensation for losses suffered unnecessarily at the hands of criminals.
How Much is Your Injury Claim Worth?
Find out now with a FREE case review from an attorney…
Visitor Questions on Other Case Types
Search for a Previously Answered Question
I was a third party bystander who was injured in what I would call a home invasion assault. The 2 men who did this were neighbors. They came onto the property with intentions to harm a gentleman whose company I was in. This was my second time ever visiting this residence. The reason I was... Read More.
My perpetrator who attempted to murder me was found guilty of fist and second degree attempted murder. The state of MD has thus far allowed him a resentencing trial and a post conviction trial. He continues to take every opportunity to declare an error in the trial to either have a retrial or reduce his... Read More.
My 18 year old son ran a stop sign which ended in a fender bender with another 33 year old man (driver). Before my son could even get out of the car, the other driver started beating on him, knocking out teeth and punching my son so hard he ended up in the emergency room.... Read More.
We have had a restraining against my grandpa. He has had his hands in the death of my grandmother and has threatened my father, mother, children and my spouse and I. Even with the order of protection, he still drives by our house slowly to intimidate us and my children, and all of us are... Read More.
As a child, I was a victim of child molestation. I went to counseling for many years, but stopped receiving services when I lost my medical assistance at age 21, while attending college. Things were fine for many years, until I was once again victimized when I was robbed while working at a gas station/convenience... Read More.
The driver of a vehicle was rear-ended. She stopped her vehicle after the collision and rolled down her car window. When the “at fault” driver approached her vehicle, the “at fault” driver attempted a robbery, and slashed her hand with a knife. It will be a uninsured motorist claim, as the “at fault” driver fled... Read More.
About 14 months ago, I was robbed at gunpoint by two individuals. Both individuals have recently been convicted and are now serving jail time. Do I have a possible civil lawsuit that I can bring upon these two individuals? Can I seek any compensation against them personally? Thank you. Read More.
In October 2008, my daughter became a victim of Road Rage, when the vehicle her father was driving cut off another driver and that driver became enraged and shot several times at the vehicle in which my daughter was a passenger. Thankfully, my daughter was not physically hurt in the incident, but was hurt deeper,... Read More.
I was sexually assaulted in Washington in 2007. For safety reasons I moved to Oklahoma. I had been receiving time loss payments from Washington Crime Victims Compensation until recently. At first they refused to pay for anything. Finally in 2012 they started paying me for time loss wages. The crime victims compensation process was just... Read More.
Around 2007-08 I was assaulted with a hand gun. I was hit across the jaw and the strike broke my jaw bone. The incident occurred in front of a store. Since I presume none of the suspects have any assets to cover my medical expenses or emotional distress, I was wondering if I can file... Read More.
In 2009 in the Bronx, New York, I was attacked by a man who nearly chopped my left arm off with a machete. I was 18 at the time. I had to have surgery and the doctors told me that from the swing of the machete, a couple of my major tendons were cut and... Read More.
I was stabbed 3 times at a party and the District Attorney dropped the charges against the person who stabbed me. I had to have surgery for the injuries I received from the attack. The man was arrested but the D.A. dropped the charges against him when he lawyer’d up. I need a lawyer who... Read More.
My aunt and I were brutally attacked and beaten due to our religion at a gas station in Seattle. The incident was caught on camera and the lady has since been charged with two counts of malicious harassment (Hate Crime). The incident was a big case all over the news in Seattle due to the... Read More.
I was robbed and attacked in the city and I suffered a broken hand. I had to get surgery on my hand. The bill came out to $30,000. Will my insurance company pay for it if they know I was attacked? Should I tell my health insurance company I just slipped in the rain, or... Read More.
I am an attorney who made headlines, “77 year old lawyer from Silver Spring, etc” in the Washington Post (without name) dated December 1 having been victimized by a robber who car-napped me in the parking lot of a large mall in Wheaton, MD. I was seriously injured (knifed on my left leg, beaten up,... Read More.
My girlfriend was attacked by her sister’s husband with a knife and had to receive stitches at the hospital. This took place at the home where her sister and brother-in-law live. They reside in the house free of charge due to the generosity of the home owner. The hospital called the police when she explained... Read More.
In July 2010 my son was at a party along with 30+ kids. Towards the end of the night some guy started fighting with my son and his best friend. My son knocked the boy to the ground. Then, before my son could turn around to run, the young man pulled a .40 caliber handgun.... Read More.
I work as an office assistant at a grocery store. I’ve been there for several years. The store was robbed twice at gunpoint within two weeks of each other. I was the one that they pointed guns at and they demanded me to open the safe both times. During the second robbery one of the... Read More.
A few days ago my fiance, her sister-in-law and her son were leaving a major chain retail store. Apparently, in the cart somewhere between where the baby sits and their personal belongings (purse) there was a happy birthday daddy card that must have been there from the customer before (neither my fiance nor her sis... Read More.
A year ago I was beat up by guys in masks that broke down my friend’s apartment door and came in and beat me up. One of the guys got 17 years in prison. I’ve realized that the assault has really messed up my head. I have post traumatic stress disorder from the incident and... Read More.
My husband was robbed at gunpoint at a Ramada Inn in Florence, SC. As he was walking to a drink machine to get a water two men came up and put a gun to his back. He emptied his pockets and gave them everything he had. Then they went to his room and led him... Read More.
I live in New Jersey. Last month I was robbed and assaulted by some teenagers at gun point. During the robbery they broke my jaw and I ended up in the mental health ward of local hospital. What are my legal options in this case? Can I sue the juveniles who assaulted and robbed me? Read More.
I was with two guys and we went to this other guy’s house so they could drink. They were drunk and started yelling at me so I yelled back and they kicked me out of the house. But they were my ride home so I had to wait outside for a few hours. When they... Read More.
When I was younger, my father would take me to my aunt and uncle’s house where I was repeatedly molested and later raped by my cousin. I had extreme emotional issues because of this happening. Due to my young age I hadn’t told anyone until I was older and thought I wouldn’t be blamed. When... Read More.
I was shot in a home invasion while visiting someone’s home. I lost my right leg femur and have two metal rods in place now. I’m wondering if I can hold the homeowner responsible for my injuries and maybe get compensation from his homeowner’s insurance. What do you think? Thanks. Read More.
I was assaulted in a medical clinic by a staff counselor. He threw a sharp object at my back as I was exiting his office. I have a contusion to my leg, a doctor’s photo and report. The defendants have not filed an answer to my claim and are over the time limit. Their attorney... Read More.