NOVA places a high priority on ensuring that victims are afforded their rights and given fair treatment. 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.
Crime victims in Pennsylvania have the following rights:
- To receive basic information concerning the services available
- In personal injury crimes, to be notified of the arrest of the suspect or the suspect’s escape from police custody;
- To be accompanied at all public criminal proceedings by a family member, a victim advocate or another person;
- In case of personal injury crimes, burglary, or driving under the influence involving bodily injury, to submit prior comment to the prosecutor’s office on the potential reduction or dropping of any charge or changing of a plea, if the victim so requests;
- To offer prior comment or to submit a written impact statement for the judge’s consideration at sentencing;
- To obtain restitution to the extent possible, including compensation through the State Crime Victim’s Compensation program;
- Upon request, where the offender is sentenced to a state prison, to provide prior comment on and to receive notice of release decisions, and to be immediately notified if the offender escapes;
- Upon request, in personal injury crimes, where the offender is sentenced to a local correctional facility, to receive notification of any release or escape of the offender, in addition to any relevant conditions imposed prior to release;
- Upon prior request, to receive notice when an offender is committed to a mental health facility from a state prison and of the discharge, transfer or escape of the offender from the mental health facility, and;
- Upon request, to have assistance in the preparation of, submission of and follow-up on the financial assistance claims for the state Victims’ Compensation Fund.
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.