Crime victims rights
Advocates for victims' rights have long complained that they have been sidelined by a criminal justice system that is focused on the interplay between the state and the defendant. With the enactment of the Victims' Bill of Rights Act of 2008, that is changing. The authors examine the current state of victims' rights, the evolution of the enforcement mechanisms, and the emerging role of the criminal practitioner in regards to these rights. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]
Advocates for victims' rights have long complained that they have been sidelined by a criminal justice system that is focused on the interplay between the state and the defendant. With the enactment of the ...view middle of the document...
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Attorneys have an obligation to their clients, to their profession, and to justice itself. They are obligated to use their expertise to guarantee that the system does not stray from the principle that lies at the heart of the law: justice for all who seek it.
- Final Report, President's Task Force on Victims of Crime (1982)
Although she had read and heard much about Santa, her friends told her that Santa didn't exist, and she had never actually seen Santa, so eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon asked the now-famous question to the editor of the New York Sun more than 100 years ago, "Is there a Santa Claus?" Some victim advocates have wondered the same thing about victims' rights: Are they just "mushy, 'feel good'" platitudes, as one court put it? (See United States v. Holland, 380 F. Supp. 2d 1264, 1279 (ND. Ala. 2005). After all, each state and the federal government have passed literally thousands of statutes that say victims have rights, and 33 states have passed constitutional amendments protecting the rights of victims in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Yet when victims have tried to assert these "rights," they have often been turned away from the courts. So, do these rights really exist?
Well, just as the editor reassured young Virginia, victim advocates may be assured that a significant and dramatic shift is occurring in the criminal and juvenile justice systems. With the recent sweeping changes in the federal landscape for victims' rights under the Crime Victims' Rights Act (CVRA), victims have been given the teeth of standing to enforce their rights. (18 U.S.C. § 3771). Already, the states are beginning to follow suit. In 2008, Oregon gave victims standing under its constitution. (Or. Const, art. I, § 42 & 43.) In the November 2008 elections, the platform of change that swept through the nation brought to California the strongest constitutional amendment for victims in the country. (Victims' Bill of Rights Act of 2008, West's Ann. Cal. Const, art. 1, § 28, adding standing).
So yes, victims' rights do, indeed, exist. This article examines the current state of victims' rights, the evolution of enforcement mechanisms seeking to implement those rights, and the criminal justice practitioner's emerging roles with respect to those rights.
Reemergence of the Victim's Voice
In colonial America, crime victims prosecuted their own criminal cases, in keeping with the common law in which there was no public prosecutor. But this form of justice was available only to those...