Victim Representation

Often when we think of legal rights, it’s those of a defendant accused of a crime that comes to mind. However, there is another segment of our society whose rights are too often left unrepresented: those who have been victimized by crime.

Every victim in California has clearly defined rights. However, many are unaware that they have these rights. Victims of crime often benefit from the assistance of a victims’ rights attorney. California law entitles a victim to everything from financial compensation to the right to be reasonably protected from the accused. Victims and their families may receive notification about an inmate’s parole hearings and provide information about how they have been harmed. Further, they are entitled to receive restitution and financial compensation.

Today, a victim is defined under the California Constitution as “a person who suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological, or financial harm as a result of the commission or attempted commission of a crime or delinquent act. The term ‘victim’ also includes the person’s spouse, parents, children, siblings, or guardian, and includes a lawful representative of a crime victim who is deceased, a minor, or physically or psychologically incapacitated.”

Victims Rights at a Glance: Protection for Victims & Their Families Under Marsy’s Law

What is the most significant piece of legislation that directly affects crime victims’ rights?

California’s victim rights are spelled out in the state’s Victims’ Bill of Rights. California significantly expanded the rights of victims in 2008 with Marsy’s Law, named after a young woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend. Marsy’s law recognized that those accused of a crime had more than 20 individual rights – but victims, and at times their surviving family members, had almost none. (You can read more about the history of the law here.)

Under California Constitution article I, § 28, section (b) victims have many rights, including the following:

  • To be treated with fairness and respect for his or her privacy and dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse.
  • To be reasonably protected from the defendant and other involved parties.
  • To have the safety of the victim and the victim’s family considered in fixing the amount of bail and release conditions for the defendant.
  • To prevent the disclosure of confidential information or records to the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant.
  • To reasonable notice of the arrest of the defendant, the charges filed, the determination of whether to extradite the defendant, and to be informed before any pretrial disposition.
  • To reasonable notice of all public proceedings, including delinquency proceedings at which the defendant and the prosecutor are entitled to be present and of all parole or other post-conviction release proceedings, and to be present at all such proceedings.
  • To be heard at any proceeding in which a right of the victim is at issue.
  • To a speedy trial/prompt final conclusion of the case/related post-judgment proceedings.
  • To be informed of the conviction, sentence, place and time of incarceration, or other disposition of the defendant, the scheduled release date of the defendant, and the release of or the escape by the defendant from custody.
  • To restitution from the persons convicted of the crimes.
  • To be informed of all parole procedures, to participate in the parole process, and to have the safety of the victim, the victim’s family, and the general public considered before any parole or other post-judgment release decision is made.

For a complete list of victims’ rights, click here

Additional Victims’ Rights for Domestic Violence Cases

While California has some of the most stringent domestic violence laws in the United States, such crimes continue to occur at an alarming rate. This is why it is so important to contact an experienced domestic violence attorney (Los Angeles / Central Valley are included in Proper Defense’s service areas).

As covered in our domestic violence page, the category of domestic violence covers a vast array of conduct involving violence or threat of violence involving two people that have one of the following relationships: married or domestic partners, dating or used to date, live or lived together, or have a child together.

Nothing may be more destructive than abuse or violence within one’s residence, especially at the hands of a partner. At Proper Defense, we stand ready to provide you with a host of support, ranging from assistance with preparing for testifying in court to obtaining an emergency protective order and a more permanent domestic violence restraining order. 

Oftentimes victims of domestic violence seek an attorney to guide them through the criminal process. There are many times where the victim has a voice in court and with guided support, Proper Defense ensures that your voice is heard. On the flip side, as a victim, you may not want to speak in court and as a victim of domestic violence, you have the right to choose not to speak and not to testify which is very unique to the criminal process. In all other types of cases, a victim can be compelled to testify through the subpoena process and be held in contempt of court for not speaking when they are on the stand. A victim of domestic violence may choose not to testify and avoid being held in contempt of court. With an advocate by your side, you can choose what is right for you and be confident that your choice will not be violated by the system.

California has its own Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services (OVSRS). As stated on its site, OVRS “maintains a comprehensive victim services program and establishes justice practices to ensure crime victims and survivors are afforded the utmost respect in exercising their legal rights.” While the resources available are many, obtaining them while in a heightened emotional state can be overwhelming. That is where Proper Defense comes in with legal expertise to guide and support you through the entire process of reclaiming your life.

Victim Representation Services We Provide

So how can a victim get a lawyer? Simple. At Proper Defense, we are committed to protecting and promoting victims’ rights as a dedicated victim advocate attorney.  We do just that, ensuring those who have been harmed by crime have access to adequate resources, including legal representation when needed. Below is a list of services we provide:

  • Initial consult and discussion about what happened and how you feel about it
  • Assistance with communicating with law enforcement and the District Attorney’s Office
  • Writing a Victim’s Impact Statement
  • Obtaining restraining orders
  • Witness advocacy directly with the prosecutor and protection from the defendant
  • Obtaining compensation/restitution (includes monetary restitution for pain and suffering, medical bills, replacement of destroyed/damaged property, and punitive damages.)
  • Speaking at applicable court proceedings/hearings
  • Accessing state and local resources concerning housing, childcare, mental health, and other financial and healthcare services

 

Being victimized has already affected you, emotionally and physically. Going through the criminal process should not add to that pain. With an experienced victim’s advocate by your side, rest assured you will not feel revictimized by the system. Instead, you will feel protected, understood, and in the know about what is happening and what to expect every step of the way.

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