Victim Bill of Rights
In recent years, the Utah State Legislature has passed a number of provisions in a continuing attempt to afford victims the rights that they deserve. In 1994, numerous governmental and non-profit groups with the help of the citizenry, drafted and passed a Victim’s Rights Amendment to the Utah Constitution.
Defendant’s rights have always been defined by the Constitution, and now similar rights are guaranteed for victims. Today, victims of crime have rights that are protected by law.
A summary of the Constitutional rights of victims of crime is detailed on this page, for the full listing; please see the Utah’s Victims Bill of Rights. If you have questions or feel your rights are not being upheld, please contact the Rape Recovery Center or the Office of Crime Victim Reparations for a referral to your Judicial District Victim’s Rights Committee and/or independent legal council.
- From the criminal investigation through the entire criminal justice process, all victims and witnesses of crime have the right to be treated with “dignity, respect, courtesy and sensitivity.” With child victims, they have the right to have the process conducted in the most effective and least traumatic, intrusive, and intimidating manner. In addition, they have the right to have interviews related to criminal prosecution kept to a minimum and conducted in an age appropriate manner. Please contact Salt Lake County Children’s Justice Center for more information on interviewing of children.
- Victims are entitled to have their interests considered before any hearing, or before a trial is continued or delayed. Like the defendant, the victim has the right to a speedy resolution of their case. Victims also have a right to be informed and assisted in their role in the criminal justice system, including the right to an explanation of the various legal proceedings. They are also entitled to an explanation of any plea negotiations that resolve the case prior to trial.
- Once the victim provides their address and phone number to the prosecutor, they are entitled to a notice of all “important criminal justice proceedings”, which are defined as: preliminary hearings, arraignments, disposition of charges, conditions of release or bail hearings, trials, sentencing, and parole hearings. Furthermore, victims have the right to be present in the courtroom for all listed hearings, including the trial, unless the judge invokes the “exclusionary rule”. The “exclusionary rule” dictates that witnesses (this may include the victim) must remain outside the courtroom during the presentation of evidence. This rule is designed to keep witnesses from being influenced by other witness’ testimony. In general, it applies to all witnesses except for the defendant and a representative of the victim, such as the lead law enforcement investigator on the case.
- Victims and witnesses have the right to be free from threats and intimidation.
- Victims have a right, if an area is available, to a secure waiting area during the trial that is separate from the area where the defendant’s family and friends are waiting.
- Victims have a right to privacy and should not be forced to disclose their address, telephone number, place of employment, or other locating information, without a compelling reason.
- Victims are entitled to employer intercession services to assist in resolving any issues surrounding missed work to participate in the criminal justice process.
- Once the defendant is found “guilty” by a jury or pleads guilty, the victim has a right to provide a written statement or speak at the sentencing hearing, prior to the judge imposing a sentence.
- If a pre-sentence report is ordered prior to sentencing, the Adult Probation and Parole agent should contact the victim. The AP&P agent should include the victim’s input in their report to the Court and take it into consideration when making a sentencing recommendation to the judge.
- Victims are entitled to restitution for their losses and expenses that were a result of the defendant’s criminal actions. They also have the right to have law enforcement return personal property as soon as it is no longer needed for the criminal justice process.
- Victims are entitled to continuing assistance in being protected from threats or harm as a result of the criminal process. And also, assistance in collecting court-ordered restitution from the defendant.
- Victims are entitled to timely notification of probation and parole hearings (see VINE services) and are entitled to be present and make statements to the judge or parole board.
If you are the victim of “criminally injurious conduct”, you may be eligible for compensation whether the perpetrator is convicted or not. To qualify for reparations through the Crime Victim Reparations office a police report must be filed and the offense must have occurred in Utah or the victim must be a Utah resident victimized in a country without a similar crime victim compensation program. If the offense occurs in a state other than Utah, the reparations claim is filed with that states reparations office (every state has a comparable program). Awards can be made up to $25,000 for medical care, mental health counseling, loss of earnings, burial expenses, dental care, relocation and loss of support to dependents. No awards can be made for property losses, except medically necessary items (eyeglasses, hearing aids) and items necessary for the health and safety of the victim (replacement of door locks and windows).
Utah law provides that the judge shall order that the offender make restitution when appropriate. Restitution can be ordered to cover a victim’s out-of-pocket expenses such as medical care and property loss. However, even when sentenced to pay restitution, there is no guarantee that you will receive payments in a timely manner – or at all. Most convicted offenders do not have financial resources available to pay restitution. You can contact the Utah Department of Corrections if you are not receiving court ordered restitution.
Civil litigation is an additional option for recovery from emotional and physical damages that are a result of a crime. A victim must hire their own attorney for civil cases. Contact the Rape Recovery Center for a referral.
Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic
In April of 2005, the Rape Recovery Center was chosen to participate in a demonstration project funded by the federal Office for Victims of Crime.
The legal clinic is designed to provide free legal representation to crime victims when victims’ rights issues are at stake. The Legal Clinic is available to serve victims of all types of crime and has a statewide focus. The goals of the Legal Clinic are three fold – namely, 1) to provide free legal services to crime victims in criminal district, justice, juvenile and appellate courts; 2) to recruit and train a roster of pro bono attorneys and law students to provide legal services to victims; and 3) to provide education to criminal justice professionals on victims’ rights.
If you are a victim or assist victims of crime, the Legal Clinic may be a valuable resource in enforcing and advancing rights afforded to victims in Utah. To contact the Legal Clinic, please contact Heidi Nestel, Clinical Director and staff attorney at (801) 721-8321.