The U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the CVRA: Helping Crime Victims Reshape Their Lives

Timothy J. Heaphy, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia

According to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 4.3 million violent crimes and 15.6 million property crimes were committed against U.S. residents age 12 or older in 2009. These crimes have a tremendous impact on victims. Crime not only deprives us of property and physical safety, it also shakes our sense of security and peace. Crime victimization has significant emotional, physical, and financial consequences for victims, families, friends, and communities, and the healing process from these effects often takes considerable time.

Every day in America, crime victims bravely face the task of reshaping their lives after victimization. While each victim’s recovery is unique, a criminal prosecution can offer a means to help restore the shape of a victim’s life. Through participation in the criminal justice process victims can obtain access to counseling and other victim assistance services, secure restitution or forfeiture to provide for financial recovery, and ensure that their voices are heard by judges as cases are resolved. These services provide tools victims need to reshape their futures.

In 2004, Congress passed the Scott Campbell, Stephanie Roper, Wendy Preston, Louarna Gillis and Nila Lynn Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA). The CVRA grants victims in federal criminal proceedings eight enforceable rights, including the right to be reasonably heard at certain public court proceedings and to receive full and timely restitution as provided in law.

United States Attorneys across the country work hard to ensure that victims receive the rights guaranteed by the CVRA. Through the Victim Notification System, the United States Attorney community provided victims of federal offenses approximately 8 million notices of case events during Fiscal Year 2010, including notice of the filing of criminal charges, as well as bond, plea, and sentencing hearings. Receiving such notice allows victims to take an active role in the prosecution of offenses perpetrated against them.

The CVRA helps victims like Tish Davis and Christina Floyd. On April 5, 2010, Tish’s son Timothy Davis and Christina were shot by a stranger as they watched the sunset from an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Stuart’s Draft, Virginia. Christina displayed uncommon courage and fought off her attacker. Timothy Davis was killed, causing a devastating loss felt every day by his mother and others who knew him.

With the help of prosecutors and victim advocates in the United States Attorney’s Office, Christina and Tish are rebuilding their lives. Christina is now enrolled in college, looking forward to a successful future. Tish Davis has received compensation from the Virginia Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund, which has been used to pay for counseling services, funeral expenses, and lost wages. When the perpetrator of this awful crime was sentenced, Christina and Tish each had an opportunity to tell the judge about how the crime impacted their lives. Our hope is that their pain will gradually diminish, replaced by a sense of restoration.

United States Attorneys’ offices all across the country are filled with people who work to protect and restore victims like Christina and Tish. These attorneys and advocates will continue to ensure victims receive the assistance they need, secure increased participation of victims in the criminal justice process, and seek the justice victims truly deserve.