Badge
Badge
Badge
Badge
Badge
Badge
Badge
Badge

The Rights of Victims

  • Why doesn’t the Constitution protect victims as well as criminals?
  • Are there any laws protecting the victims of crime?
  • What is being done to give victims more say in criminal trials?

The function of the criminal justice system is to punish criminal behavior by the arrest, prosecution, and sentencing of those who violate the law. However, because we live in a free society, the system must be appropriately balanced between the power of the government and the rights of the individual. Therefore, the primary focus of the system has been to protect the rights of the criminally accused. The United States Constitution guarantees certain rights to a person accused of a crime, including the right to a trial by jury in open court, the right to be represented by a lawyer and the right to be free of cruel and unusual punishments. Other rights are applicable to all people, but mostly affect those singled out for criminal investigation, like the prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.

Over the years this emphasis on the rights of the accused has led some people to conclude that criminal offenders are treated better by the system than are the victims of crime. In a typical scenario, the police seem more interested in getting information about the criminal and the crime than taking care of a crime victim. The prosecutor seems more interested in building his case against the accused than in alleviating the crime victim’s suffering or fear of testifying. The victim is almost peripheral to the main action and is often uninformed and not consulted when major events take place in the case.

In recent years, a growing victims’ rights movement has led to the implementation of a variety of measures to correct this perceived imbalance in the criminal justice system. In 1982, Congress passed the Victims and Witness Protection Act which makes it a crime to intimidate a witness or retaliate against a person who testifies or provides evidence to the prosecution. In addition, the act allows a prosecutor to bring a proceeding for a restraining order to protect the victim, thereby alleviating the need of the victim to hire a private attorney to secure a protective order if one is needed. A person convicted of retaliation faces a ten-year sentence that can be increased to twenty years for attempted murder of the victim or death if the victim is killed.

Many state and federal laws require a criminal offender to make restitution to the victim, and the court will order restitution when the offender is sentenced. The offender is ordered to pay the victim a sum of money designed to compensate the victim for the monetary costs of the crime such as medical bills, destroyed property, and lost wages.

Sentencing schemes have also been revised to include a time and place for victims of crime and their families to address the court. The victim or family members are given a chance at the sentencing hearing to tell the judge in writing or in person how they have been affected by the crime and their opinion as to a legitimate sentence. Victim-offender mediation programs focus on the need for a victim and victimizer to meet face-to-face and discuss the crime. Participation is voluntary for both victim and offender and the goal of the program is to arrive at an agreement on how the offender can redress the harm he or she caused.

Other measures that address the concerns of crime victims include the use of victim advocates. Sometimes the advocates are funded by the prosecutor’s office and sometimes they are part of the court system. Their function is to assist victims in all aspects of the criminal proceeding. The advocates should keep the victim informed about the progress of the case and explain the basics of the procedure. Victim advocates may also assist battered spouses in getting restraining orders against their abusers and inform them of community resources.

Finally, the system is doing more to notify and protect victims of crime when the offender is released from jail. Laws such as Megan’s Law in New Jersey have been passed in many jurisdictions. Megan’s Law requires certain convicted sex offenders to register with the police in the neighborhood where they live and requires the police to notify members of the public about the presence of the offender. Domestic abuse statutes often require the government to notify the victim whenever the offender is released from jail, even during the pre-trial period

Client Reviews
★★★★★
"Mr. Steinberg provided my family with expert handling of my son's case. He took extra time understand the case, to consult with us during the pretrial proceedings, and to support him for a plea agreement. Mr. Steinberg is very knowledge about the law and very professional. He guided us in achieving the best possible outcome for my son. If I am ever in need of law services again, I will certainly have Mr. Steinberg handle my case. l also highly recommend his services to anyone that might be in need of an excellent defense attorney!" Tanya Witt
★★★★★
"I found myself in criminal trouble, that I wasn't guilty of and thanks to Mr. Steinberg's dedication and hard work, right before we we're looking at having to continue on to trial level Mr. Steinberg was able to use his vast knowledge of the law and his many respected years in the system to find a way to show my innocence. After a very unsure and somewhat difficult time for me, this very skilled and knowledgeable attorney was able to find the right path to take to reach a dismissal in my case. For that I can't tell you how much I appreciate his representation and his excellent understanding and helpful personality. He's a great man and an even better attorney but don't misunderstand him, he is an attorney not a therapist. Thanks H." Josh
★★★★★
"Working with Michael Steinberg was a wonderful experience. Truly people need to know that he is a expert in what he does. His personality is compassionate, intellectual, and down to earth. I glean that Michael is fun to be around. In the time I worked with him, it was a pleasure to be around him. As for my case, the outcome was amazing and couldn’t be better. He has made my life more manageable because of the outcome of my case. I’ve worked with other lawyers in the Denver area. He is superior to them all. If you’re in need of a lawyer and you come across Mr. Steinberg look no further he’s going to be the one you need. Thank you again Michael." Renee Taylor