Victims of federal crimes have rights

In addition to harming victims by violating Washington state and local laws, criminals can hurt victims by committing federal criminal offenses. While federal crime victims may seek compensation through crime victim litigation, they also have rights and protections under federal law.

Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act

The VRRA provides these rights to federal crime victims:

  • Notification that they were a federal crime victim.
  • Information on medical and social services.
  • Information on programs for support services such as counseling and treatment.
  • Reasonable protection from a suspected offender and anyone acting with them or at their direction.
  • Knowing the status of the criminal investigation to the extent it is appropriate and will not interfere with the case.
  • Having personal property being held as evidence kept in good condition and returned as soon as it is no longer needed.

Crime Victim’s Rights Act

The CVRA provides protection if federal charges are filed in crimes involving images or material depicting the victim. The victims or, when the victim is a minor, their parent or guardian have the following rights:

  • Reasonable protection from the accused.
  • Reasonable, accurate and timely notice of a public court proceeding or parole hearing involving the crime or the accused’s release or escape.
  • Not to be excluded from these public court proceedings unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the victim’s testimony would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony.
  • To be reasonably heard at any public district court proceeding concerning the offender’s release, plea, sentencing or parole.
  • To confer with the government prosecutor in the case.
  • Full and timely restitution allowed under the law.
  • Proceedings taking place without unreasonable delay.
  • To be treated with fairness and respect to their dignity and privacy.
  • Receiving timely information on any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement.
  • Receiving information on their federal legal rights.

Victims defined

The VRRA helps crime victims who suffered direct physical, emotional or financial harm from the commission of a crime. A family member or representative may receive victim services on behalf of a victim under 18 or who lacks capacity. Offenders are never entitled to rights under the VRRA.

The CVRA assists victims who suffered physical, emotional, or financial harm from the commission of a federal offense. For a crime victim under 18 or someone who lacks the ability to represent themselves, a family member or representative may assert the victim’s rights so long as that representative is not being investigated or prosecuted for the crime.

An attorney can help crime victims pursue their own actions for compensation. They can also help take legal action against other negligent parties.