Crime Victims’ Rights
Federal crime victims* have the following rights under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3771 (“CVRA”):
- The right to be reasonably protected from the accused.
- The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused.
- The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding.
- The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding.
- The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.
- The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.
- The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
- The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.
- The right to be informed in a timely manner of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement.
- The right to be informed of the rights under this section and the services described in section 503(c) of the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (34 U.S.C. § 20141(c)) and provided contact information for the Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice.
*Under the CVRA, “the term ‘crime victim’ means a person directly and proximately harmed as a result of the commission of a Federal offense or an offense in the District of Columbia. In the case of a crime victim who is under 18 years of age, incompetent, incapacitated, or deceased, the legal guardians of the crime victim or the representatives of the crime victim’s estate, family members, or any other persons appointed as suitable by the court, may assume the crime victim’s rights under this chapter, but in no event shall the defendant be named as such guardian or representative.” See 18 U.S.C. § 3771(e).
Services to Crime Victims
CVRA right no. 10, listed above, refers to services under the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act of 1990, 34 U.S.C. § 20141(c) (“VRRA”). The VRRA directs designated federal officials—referred to as “responsible officials”— to provide specified services to victims.** During investigations, victim responsibilities are generally carried out by victim specialists within federal law enforcement agencies; and once charges have been filed, victim specialists within U.S. Attorney’s Offices are generally responsible for victim services. Following are the services that are to be provided:
- A responsible official shall-
- inform a victim of the place where the victim may receive emergency medical and social services;
- inform a victim of any restitution or other relief to which the victim may be entitled under this or any other law and 1 manner in which such relief may be obtained;
- inform a victim of public and private programs that are available to provide counseling, treatment, and other support to the victim; and
- assist a victim in contacting the persons who are responsible for providing the services and relief described in subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C).
- A responsible official shall arrange for a victim to receive reasonable protection from a suspected offender and persons acting in concert with or at the behest of the suspected offender.
- During the investigation and prosecution of a crime, a responsible official shall provide a victim the earliest possible notice of-
- the status of the investigation of the crime, to the extent it is appropriate to inform the victim and to the extent that it will not interfere with the investigation;
- the arrest of a suspected offender;
- the filing of charges against a suspected offender;
- the scheduling of each court proceeding that the witness is either required to attend or, under section 10606(b)(4) 2 of this title, is entitled to attend;
- the release or detention status of an offender or suspected offender;
- the acceptance of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere or the rendering of a verdict after trial; and
- the sentence imposed on an offender, including the date on which the offender will be eligible for parole.
- During court proceedings, a responsible official shall ensure that a victim is provided a waiting area removed from and out of the sight and hearing of the defendant and defense witnesses.
- After trial, a responsible official shall provide a victim the earliest possible notice of-
- the scheduling of a parole hearing for the offender;
- the escape, work release, furlough, or any other form of release from custody of the offender; and
- the death of the offender, if the offender dies while in custody.
- At all times, a responsible official shall ensure that any property of a victim that is being held for evidentiary purposes be maintained in good condition and returned to the victim as soon as it is no longer needed for evidentiary purposes.
- The Attorney General or the head of another department or agency that conducts an investigation of a sexual assault shall pay, either directly or by reimbursement of payment by the victim, the cost of a physical examination of the victim which an investigating officer determines was necessary or useful for evidentiary purposes. The Attorney General shall provide for the payment of the cost of up to 2 anonymous and confidential tests of the victim for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, gonorrhea, herpes, chlamydia, and syphilis, during the 12 months following sexual assaults that pose a risk of transmission, and the cost of a counseling session by a medically trained professional on the accuracy of such tests and the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases to the victim as the result of the assault. A victim may waive anonymity and confidentiality of any tests paid for under this section.
- A responsible official shall provide the victim with general information regarding the corrections process, including information about work release, furlough, probation, and eligibility for each.
** Under the VRRA, “the term ‘victim’ means a person that has suffered direct physical, emotional, or pecuniary harm as a result of the commission of a crime,” and may include an authorized representative of a victim that is an institutional entity, or the spouse, legal guardian, parent, child, or sibling (in that order of preference) of a victim who is under 18 years of age, incompetent, incapacitated, or deceased.
Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice
Please refer to our main Victim and Witness Services page for information about this office.