Victim of Crime


1. Law enforcement has a duty to investigate crime and protect victimsFemale crime victim

Police have a responsibility to protect you from valid threats of crime, and investigate any valid reports of a crime. If they don’t, you may be able to sue the police or have the federal government prosecute the police for failing to do their duty, especially if due to discrimination.1This is called “Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law,” and is found in Title 18 of U.S. Code, Section 242

2. Victims’ Bill of Rights

If you are a victim of a crime under state or local law (which includes most crimes) in California, you have the following rights:2Marsy’s Law, found in the California Constitution article I, § 28, section (b)

  • To be treated with fairness and respect for your privacy and dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse, throughout the criminal or juvenile justice process.
  • To be reasonably protected from the defendant and anyone acting on behalf of the defendant.
  • To have your safety and your family’s safety 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, which could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family or which disclose confidential communications made in the course of medical or counseling treatment, or which are otherwise privileged or confidential by law.
  • To refuse an interview, deposition, or other information request by the defendant’s attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant, and to set reasonable conditions on the conduct of any such interview which you do agree to do.
  • Notice of arrest of defendant and to confer with prosecution. To reasonable notice of and to reasonably confer with the prosecuting agency, upon request, regarding the arrest of the defendant if known by the prosecutor, the charges filed, the determination whether to extradite the defendant, and, upon request, to be notified of and informed before any pretrial disposition of the case.
  • To reasonable notice of all public proceedings, including delinquency proceedings, upon request, 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, upon request, at any proceeding, including any delinquency proceeding, involving a post-arrest release decision, plea, sentencing, post-conviction release decision, or any proceeding in which any of your rights are at issue
  • To a speedy trial and a prompt and final conclusion of the case and any related post-judgment proceedings.
  • Sentencing/Probation
    • Informing officials of impact of offense. To provide information to a probation department official conducting a pre-sentence investigation concerning the impact of the offense on you or your family and any sentencing recommendations before the sentencing of the defendant.
    • To receive, upon request, the pre-sentence report when available to the defendant, except for those portions made confidential by law.
  • Notice of case status, including release or escape of defendant. To be informed, upon request, 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.
  • Compensation or return of property from defendant
    • You have the right to seek and secure “restitution” from the persons convicted of the crimes causing the losses they suffer.
    • Restitution shall be ordered from the convicted wrongdoer in every case, regardless of the sentence or disposition imposed, in which a crime victim suffers a loss.
    • All monetary payments and property collected from any person who has been ordered to make restitution shall be first applied to pay the amounts ordered as restitution to the victim.
  • To the prompt return of property used as evidence in the case when prosecution no longer needs it as evidence.
  • Parole/post-sentencing
    • To be informed of all parole procedures, to participate in the parole process, to provide information to the parole authority to be considered before the parole of the offender, and to be notified, upon request, of the parole or other release of the offender.
    • To have your safety, your family’s safety, and the general public considered before any parole or other post-judgment release decision is made.
  • To be informed of these rights.

If you are a victim of a federal crime, see here.

3. Definition of Victim

The legal definition of a victim is “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.3Cal. Const., art. I, § 28(e)

The term ‘victim’ does NOT include a person in custody for an offense, or a person whom the court finds would not act in the best interests of a minor victim.

4. Hate crimes

You have the right to protection against “hate crimes” where an attacker uses (or attempts to use) a deadly weapon and the attack was motivated by your actual or perceived race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.4U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 249

5. Potential to sue perpetrator

Often the victim of a crime may also be able to sue the alleged perpetrator in civil court (as opposed to criminal court) and possibly get monetary compensation from the perpetrator. See a personal injury attorney for assistance.

6. Deadlines for prosecuting assailant

Though it varies by state and by type of crime, there are usually deadlines for prosecuting a person for committing a crime. These deadlines are called the “statute of limitations.” For example, in California, rape must be prosecuted within 10 years or the assailant will essentially get away with it. Here are the deadlines for prosecuting sex crimes in every state. Murder is one of the few crimes which never has a deadline for prosecuting.


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