Rights of Victims
Who is a “victim” under Florida Law?
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 or against whom the crime or delinquent act is committed. The term “victim” includes the victim’s lawful representative, the parent or guardian of a minor, or the next of kin of a homicide victim, except upon a showing that the interest of such individual would be in actual or potential conflict with the interests of the victim. The term “victim” does not include the accused. The terms “crime” and “criminal” include delinquent acts and conduct.
What rights does a victim have under Florida Law?
Florida Statutes establish guidelines for fair treatment of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems. The Florida Constitution also establishes a Bill of Rights for crime victims. There are certain rights that are automatically vested at the time of victimization. There are additional rights that a victim must request in order to be afforded those rights.
The Florida Constitution, through a recent amendment commonly known as “Marsy’s Law”, established that a victim, and not only a defendant, is entitled to due process rights. Additionally, victims of crimes may hire an attorney to represent their interests throughout the criminal justice process and ensure that their rights are asserted and upheld.
Some of the rights that a victim MAY be entitled to are as follows:
Compensation for economic losses incurred such as wage loss, disability, loss of support, treatment costs, funeral/burial costs, relocation expenses, and property loss and/or the availability of compensation
Right to information concerning services available to victims of adult and juvenile crime
Right to crisis intervention services, supportive, or bereavement counseling, social service support referrals, and community-based victim treatment programs
Right to notification of scheduling changes
Right to notification to employer of victim or witness as to the need for victim and witness cooperation in the prosecution of the case. Notice to creditors of the reason for serious financial strain as a direct result of a crime or of his or her cooperation with law enforcement or a state attorney
Right to due process and to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s dignity
Right to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse
Right to be reasonably protected from the accused and any person acting on behalf of the accused
Right to have safety and welfare of victim’s family considered when setting bail
Right to prevent disclosure of records or information that could be used to locate or harass the victim or victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim
Right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of, and to be present at, all public proceedings involving the criminal conduct, including, but not limited to, trial, plea, sentencing, or adjudication, even if the victim will be a witness at the proceeding
Right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any release or escape of the defendant or delinquent, and any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated
Right to be heard in any public proceeding involving pretrial or other release from any form of legal constraint, plea, sentencing, adjudication, or parole, and any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated
Right to confer with the prosecuting attorney concerning any plea agreements, participation in pretrial diversion programs, release, restitution, sentencing, or any other disposition of the case
Right to provide information regarding the impact of the offender’s conduct on the victim and the victim’s family to the individual responsible for conducting any presentence investigation or compiling any presentence investigation report, and to have any such information considered in any sentencing recommendations submitted to the court
Right to receive a copy of any presentence report, and any other report or record relevant to the exercise of a victim’s right, except for such portions made confidential or exempt by law
Right to be informed of the conviction, sentence, adjudication, place and time of incarceration, or other disposition of the convicted offender, any scheduled release date of the offender, and the release of or the escape of the offender from custody
Right to be informed of all postconviction processes and procedures, to participate in such processes and procedures, to provide information to release authority to be considered before any release decision is made, and to be notified of any release decision regarding the offender. The parole or early release authority shall extend the right to be heard to any person harmed by the offender
Right to be informed of clemency and expungement procedures, to provide information to the governor, the court, any clemency board, and other authority in these procedures, and to have that information considered before a clemency or expungement decision is made; and to be notified of such decision in advance of any release of the offender
Right to be prompt return of victim’s property when no longer needed as evidence in the case
Right to full and timely restitution in every case and from each convicted offender for all losses suffered, both directly and indirectly, by the victim as a result of the criminal conduct
Right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay, and to a prompt and final conclusion of the case and any related post-judgment proceedings
Right to be informed of these rights, and to be informed that victims can seek the advice of an attorney with respect to their rights
The victim, retained attorney of the victim, a lawful representative of the victim, or the office of the state attorney upon request of the victim, may assert and seek enforcement of the rights enumerated in this section and any other rights afforded to a victim by law in any trial or appellate court, or before any other authority with jurisdiction over the case, as a matter of right. The court or other authority with jurisdiction shall act promptly on such a request, affording a remedy by due course of law for the violation of any right. The reasons for any decision regarding the disposition of a victim’s right shall be clearly stated on the record
Should I hire an attorney if I do not want to be involved with the prosecution?
Hiring an attorney to represent you or your child as a victim or witness will allow you to ensure your rights are protected by hiring an attorney to speak on your behalf, consult with the state attorney or law enforcement on your behalf, and alleviate much of the inconvenience that the criminal justice system will have on your life. You can rest assured that there is someone advocating for YOU and your interests as a victim or witness. You can still maintain the protections that the law provides without having to appear at every court hearing, or speak at every court proceeding by retaining an experienced criminal attorney with experience on both sides of the criminal justice system.