NOVA places a high priority on ensuring that victims are afforded their rights and given fair treatment by the criminal and civil justice systems and by others such as medical facilitators and creditors. NOVA staff members will advocate on behalf of individual victims, with their concurrence and input, to help ensure that their rights are not violated and that they are not subjected to other adverse actions because of their victimization.
Every state and some of the U.S. territories have a Victims Bill of Rights (a set of laws for crime victims). Each state’s Bill is slightly different, but all of them focus generally on seven main principles:
- Victims and witnesses have a right to protection from intimidation and harm (for example, the victim should have a safe waiting area in the courthouse, and the offender should not be able to threaten or hurt the victim again — physically, emotionally, financially or socially).
- Victims and witnesses have a right to be informed about the criminal justice process (for example, the victim should know what is happening with the police investigation, if and when a trial will take place, and be told about their rights as crime victims).
- Victims and witnesses have a right to counsel (for example, the victim should be able to talk to a prosecutor or a victim advocate about the criminal justice process, including the victim’s right to participate in the process and to get help to prepare a Victim Impact Statement, and to a counselor who can provide emotional support).
- Victims and witnesses have a right to reparations (for example, in many cases, the victim may be eligible to receive compensation or restitution as repayment for their expenses). Crime Victim Compensation is paid to the victim or to a victim’s creditors out of a special fund in each state, and is described in more detail in the section on “Types of Services Generally Provided.” Restitution occurs when the judge orders the offender to repay the victim.
- Victims and witnesses have a right to their property and their job(for example, the victim’s property should be returned promptly if the police find it or if it is taken as evidence, and they should not lose their job because of the crime).
- Victims and witnesses have a right to due process in criminal court proceedings (for example, victims should have rights similar to those of offenders, and should be treated fairly).
- Victims and witnesses have a right to be treated with dignity and compassion(for example, victims should be treated with respect).
To date, 32 states have also amended their State Constitutions to further ensure that victim rights are enforced. Check your state by visiting The National Center for Victims of Crime. State Constitutional Amendments for Crime Victims help to protect victims in the event they do not receive the rights they are entitled to under the State Victims Bill of Rights. It is possible that one day, there will be an amendment to the United States Constitution that will give all victims the same protection.