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Columns

September 24, 2012

The rights of crime victims

(Continued)

You can also have some say in what happens to the defendant. In many felony cases, including all violent felonies, the District Attorney’s Office must ask the victim’s views about disposition before dismissing the case, accepting a guilty plea or deciding to go to trial.

The DA must also seek the victim’s input about the release or custody status of a defendant who has been indicted and explain sentencing alternatives, such as probation and restitution, as well as jail.

Many DAs will try to reach victims in all cases. Thus, it is important that you provide the DA’s Office with your contact information. It is best to do this promptly after the defendant is arrested, so the DA knows you are interested, that you want to talk with them and want to be kept informed.

You may also have valuable information to provide the prosecutor about the defendant, such as treatment needs, past violence or behavior after the arrest, like apologies, threats or constant texting.

IMPACT STATEMENTS

In many cases, the judge orders a presentence report from probation before sentencing. The victim has the right to submit a written impact statement. This can be prepared and sent to probation or it can be done at the probation office with their help.

As a judge, I read many of these statements, and it had a powerful impact to see in the victim’s own words what the defendant did and the effect it has had on the victim’s life since.

FINANCIAL HELP

When there is a conviction, restitution for losses or injuries caused by the crime must be part of the sentence. This includes your out-of-pocket costs for medical bills, counseling, funeral, replacement of damaged or stolen property, insurance deductible, changing locks, as well as loss of earnings.

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