Attorney General February 28, 2000 Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance
February 28, 2000
MEMORANDUM FOR ALL DOJ EMPLOYEES
FROM: THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
SUBJECT: Release of the Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance (2000 ed.)
In June of 1996, the President directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to do everything possible to respect crime victims' rights and encourage and facilitate crime victims' participation in the criminal justice process, stating that, "[o]ur Federal investigators and prosecutors should not simply comply with the letter of the law, they should also fulfill the spirit of the law". The President also directed the Department to take a number of important steps to improve the treatment of victims in the Federal, State, military, and juvenile criminal justice systems, including undertaking a system-wide review with the goal of providing for full victim participation in Federal criminal proceedings. The President asked me to hold the Federal system to a higher standard of victims' rights than ever before. In response to this directive, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General led a Department-wide review in which every affected component of the Department participated. This review demonstrated a clear need for increased awareness and fuller, more consistent execution of our obligations to victims of federal crime.
Accordingly, a working group headed by the Deputy Attorney General revised, updated and simplified our Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance (AG Guidelines), the basic policy guidelines on how the Department is to treat crime victims and witnesses. The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) examined the Federal victims' laws as part of this effort and concluded that many of the victim-service provisions are mandatory. Representatives of all components who come into contact with crime victims assisted in the process, and the final AG Guidelines became effective on January 31, 2000.
You will find a listing of the major changes contained in the 2000 edition of the AG Guidelines attached to this memorandum. Please take time to familiarize yourself with these new provisions and the entire 2000 edition of the AG Guidelines. In particular, please note the changes in the Guidelines that clarify that the victim-service provisions under federal law are mandatory. These required services fall into three general categories: (1) identifying victims; (2) informing victims about how to obtain certain forms of assistance, about the corrections process in general, and about various developments in the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of the offender; and (3) arranging to provide reasonable protection for victims from the offenders.
Although we must provide these services, we retain some discretion in performing our responsibilities under the statute. Please review the attachment for further information. I am confident that all Department employees who come into contact with crime victims will use common sense and good judgment in carrying out these legal requirements.
The Guidelines reflect my strong belief that victims should play a central role in the criminal justice system and my commitment that all components of the United States Department of Justice respond to crime victims with compassion, fairness, and respect, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law.