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Crime Victims' Legal Rights

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Victims’ Rights in the District of Columbia

  • Be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.
  • Be reasonably protected from the accused offender.
  • Be notified of court proceedings.
  • Be present at all court proceedings related to the offense, including the sentencing, and release, parole, record-sealing, and post-conviction hearings, unless the court determines that testimony by the victim would be materially affected if the victim heard other testimony or where the needs of justice otherwise require.
  • Confer with an attorney for the prosecution in the case which does not include the authority to direct the prosecution of the case.
  • An order of restitution from the person convicted of the criminal conduct that caused the victim’s loss or injury.
  • Information about conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, detention, and release of the offender, and about any court order to seal the offender’s criminal records.
  • Notice of the rights provided in this chapter and under the laws of the District of Columbia.
  • Be notified of any available victim advocate or other appropriate person to develop a safety plan and appropriate services.

DC Code Section 23-1901


Victims’ Rights at Sentencing

  • Crime victims shall have the right to be present at the defendant’s sentencing, release, parole, post-conviction, and record-sealing hearings.
  • Crime victims shall have the right to submit, prior to the imposition of sentence, a written victim impact statement containing information concerning any emotional, psychological, financial, or physical harm done to or loss suffered by the victim.
  • In determining the appropriate sentence to be imposed on the defendant, the Court shall consider any victim impact statement submitted in accordance with this chapter and such statement shall be made a part of the pre-sentence report filed by the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.
  • Crime victims shall have the right to offer at the defendant’s release or parole hearing a written statement of the victim’s opinion whether the defendant should be granted release or parole.
  • Crime victims shall have the right to make a statement at the defendant’s sentencing and record-sealing hearings. The absence of the crime victim shall not preclude the court from holding the sentencing or record-sealing hearings.
  • (1) In addition to a crime victim, a representative of a community affected by the crime of which the defendant has been convicted shall have the right to submit, prior to imposition of sentence, a community impact statement and the court shall consider the community impact statement in determining the appropriate sentence to be imposed on the defendant. If more than one community is affected, each may submit a statement pursuant to this paragraph.
  • (2) Sentencing in a misdemeanor case shall not be continued solely because a community impact statement has not been submitted.
  • (3) The Chief Judge of the Superior Court shall establish reasonable procedures with respect to time and manner in which community impact statements are submitted to the court.

DC Code Section 23-1904


Rights in the Juvenile Justice System

  • Be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, sensitivity, and with respect for the victim’s or eyewitness’s privacy
  • Be notified in advance of the dates and times of juvenile factfinding hearings, transfer hearings, disposition hearings, and post-disposition hearings. 
  • During any phase of the investigative proceedings or court proceedings, to provided, to the extent practicable, a waiting area that is separate from the child alleged to be delinquent and the family and friends of the child alleged to be delinquent.
  • Be informed by the appropriate juvenile justice agency of financial assistance, criminal injuries compensation, and any other available social services available to the victim, and receive assistance or information on how to apply for such programs
  • Be advised of the right to have stolen and other property promptly returned and, on written request, have the property promptly returned by law enforcement agencies when means can be employed to otherwise satisfy evidentiary requirements for prosecution, unless there is a compelling law enforcement reason for retaining the stolen property.
  • Be informed, in appropriate cases, by the Corporation Counsel of the right to request restitution.
  • A victim and the victim’s immediate family members have the right to submit a victim impact statement in all cases and have the victim impact statement considered in the disposition of the case. The Corporation Counsel and the Director of Social Services shall inform the victim and the victim’s immediate family members or caretaker, or their duly authorized attorney, of such right.
  • Before, during, and immediately after any court proceeding, the court shall provide appropriate safeguards to minimize the contact that may occur between the respondent, or respondent’s family and witnesses forrespondent, and the victim, eyewitnesses for the Corporation Counsel, and the family of the victim or the Corporation Counsel’s eyewitnesses.
  • Except as otherwise mandated by law, the District government shall not be required to disclose the names or addresses of its witnesses prior to a hearing.
  • The respondent, the respondent’s attorney or another person acting on behalf of the respondent shall clearly identify himself or herself as being, representing, or acting on behalf of the respondent at the beginning of any contact with the victim, the victim’s family, or other person believed to be eyewitnesses to the offenses charged.

DC Code section 16-2340


Sexual Assault Survivors Rights

  • The right not to be prevented from, or charged for, receiving a medical forensic examination.
  • The right to have a sexual assault evidence collection kit or its probative contents preserved, without charge, for the duration of the maximum applicable statute of limitations or 20 years, whichever is shorter.
  • The right to be informed of any result of a sexual assault evidence collection kit, including a DNA profile match, toxicology report, or other information collected as part of a medical forensic examination, if such disclosure would not impede or compromise an ongoing investigation.
  • The right to be informed in writing of policies governing the collection and preservation of a sexual assault evidence collection kit.
  • The right to, upon written request, receive written notification from the appropriate official with custody of the evidence collection kit not later than 60 days before the date of the intended destruction or disposal of the kit.
  • The right to be granted, upon written request, further preservation of the kit or its probative contents.
  • The right to be informed of these rights.

Public Law No. 114-236


Rights of Child Victims

  • In some cases, a court may permit the child to testify outside the court, using a two-way closed circuit television, or in a deposition before the trial. 
  • A child victim’s identity must remain confidential.
  • When possible, a child abuse team, including police, prosecutors, doctors, and therapists, should be assembled to support the victimized child and prevent further trauma.
  • In some cases, the judge may order the courtroom closed to anyone who does not have a direct interest in the case.
  • In some cases, the judge may appoint a guardian ad litem to advocate throughout the court proceedings for the best interests of the child.
  • When testifying, the child has the right to be accompanied and supported by an adult.

18 U.S. Code § 3509


Federal Crime Victims’ Rights

  • The right to be reasonably protected from the accused.
  • The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused.
  • The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding.
  • The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding.
  • The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.
  • The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.
  • The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
  • The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.
  • The right to be informed in a timely manner of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement.
  • The right to be informed of these rights under this section and the services described in section 503(c) of the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. § 10607(c)) and provided contact information for the Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice.

18 U.S. Code § 3771