If you have been the victim of a crime, you may feel many emotions, including anger, fear and even a sense of betrayal. You may feel as though society has let you down. But you do have rights. Although no one can make you feel as if the crime never happened, these rights are designed to help you get through the difficult aftermath of a crime.
Your rights in the criminal court system
In Washington, crime victims have rights as part of the criminal court system, as well as rights to pursue a civil case. In the criminal courts, you have the right to:
- Notification. Law enforcement should notify you of your rights and the status of the case. The court should keep you informed regarding any role you may play in the investigation or as a witness at trial. You also have the right to attend the trial, in most cases.
- Protection. You have the right to feel safe during the process and the police should let you know what they are doing to keep you safe.
- Return of property. If you had property stolen, you have the right to reclaim the property once the police are finished with it as evidence. Exceptions include weapons, contraband and currency.
- Medical attention. If you were physically injured, you have the right to prompt medical attention.
- Sexual assault victim advocate. If you were the victim of a sexual assault, you have the right to have an advocate with you at all hearings and interviews.
- Speak to the court. You may give a victim impact statement at the sentencing phase of the trial, and you may speak at any hearings prior to the offender’s release.
Your right to pursue a civil case
The criminal court is not the only place you can assert your rights as a victim. You may have a civil case against the criminal, a property owner who failed to keep their property safe or an institution that had a duty to protect you from the crime. For example, if a parole officer did not adequately supervise a parolee, and that parolee committed a crime against you, the state may be liable for your crime.
No matter how you decide to assert your rights as a crime victim, the important thing is that you stand up for what is important to you. Hopefully, you will one day be able to move past this terrible event and reclaim the life you had before the crime.