What Rights Do Victims Have in Affecting the Prosecution of a Criminal Case?
If you’re charged with a crime, what kinds of rights does the victim have? What can they do to you? How can they affect you and the outcome of your case?
Take a look, first starting at the Federal level. The victims’ rights movement of the 1970s and 1980s greatly influenced the rights victims have today.
And today, at the Federal level, they have eight rights, which are established by Title 18 of the US Code, Crimes, and Criminal Procedure. Here are those rights explained in simple, plain-English language:
1. Victims can be reasonably protected from you
2. They can be timely notified of any public court or parole proceeding involving you, including if you escape
3. They have the right to not be excluded from any public court proceeding unless the court determines their testimony could be altered as they heard other testimony during the proceeding
4. They can be reasonably heard at any public proceeding involving you
5. They have the right to confer with the government’s attorney
6. They are entitled to full and timely restitution
7. They get to have proceedings free from unreasonable delay
8. They must be treated with fairness and respect
What about the State Level?
In addition to those rights at the Federal level, Texas adds a few more rights for victims at the state level. These can be found in Chapter 56, Article 1, Section 30 of the Code of Criminal Procedure:
1. Victims can have their safety considered when the local magistrate sets your bail
2. They can request to be informed about your right to bail and criminal investigation procedures regarding your case
3. Victims can provide appropriate information about the impact of your crime to the probation department
4. They can be notified about your parole proceedings and can participate in the process by submitting written information
5. They can request victim-offender mediation
6. They can write a “victim impact statement” that can be considered during sentencing, plea bargaining, and parole
7. Victims even have more rights than that in Texas. But those are the most relevant ones to you.
The prosecution may choose to allow the victim to make a statement to the judge during a punishment hearing to allow them to tell the judge what they want the judge to do.
There’s really no solid defense against this. You can cross=examine the victim, but you have to be careful how you approach this. If you do challenge the victim’s statement, you start to get seen as being against the victim, rather than defending your own case.
So you may want to challenge them only in situations where you have nothing to lose, such as when you face the possibility of life in prison and you have no other choice.
Can victims affect the prosecution and sentence you receive? Absolutely. And that’s why you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side.