Sometimes it feels like there are more designated months, weeks and days for different topics than we can keep up with, but often times they remind us of topics that hold an important part in the structure of our society.
One such week is Victim’s Rights Week, which is designated as April 21-27. What are a crime victim’s rights? Denise Loy, Director of the Tri-County Victim Witness Program breaks it down.
“They have the right to be informed of what is going on, they have the right to apply for financial assistance ... a right to participate and a right to protection from harm,” Loy said.
Right to be notified
A crime victim has a right to be notified about: their rights, the prosecution process and how to participate in it, the contents of any plea agreement, changes in scheduling, final disposition of a case, appeals, proposed sentence modifications, release or escape of the offender, petitions and their outcomes, and about the location of the nearest crime victim assistance program.
The nearest program is the Tri-County Victim Witness Program, which serves Chippewa, Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine counties.
Right to protection
The right to protection from harm covers a variety of aspects, including: The right to a secure waiting area during court proceedings; The right to request that home, employment, telephone number and birth date are withheld in open court and are withheld by law enforcement; Protection against employer retaliation for victims and witnesses called to testify and protection for victims and family members who take reasonable time off to attend court proceedings; Tampering with a witness is a crime.
Right to participate
Victims have a right to participate in different aspects of the trial, including: Providing input in a pretrial diversion decision; To object orally or in writing to a plea agreement or a proposed disposition; Victims have a right to inform the court of the impact of a crime; They have a right to be present at the sentencing and plea presentation hearings; and a right to submit a statement regarding decisions to discharge/release offender from civil commitment.
Right to apply for financial assistance
Victims of violent crime may apply for financial assistance (reparations) from the state if they have suffered economic loss as a result of a crime. They may also request the court order the defendant pay restitution if the defendant is found guilty or pleads guilty. Victims may also request that a probation violation hearing be scheduled 60 days prior to the expiration of probation if restitution is not paid.
Page 2 of 2 -
The responsibility of informing victims of these rights falls to law enforcement, prosecutors, court personnel, judges and crime victim service providers.
In the Tri-County area, the victim service program works alongside attorneys in the county.
“When a complaint is filed, I inform the victim of their rights and request information from them regarding the impact the crime has had upon them, if there is any financial loss, and if they have wishes regarding the outcome of the matter. Loy said. “Law enforcement and attorneys also refer victims to me.”
Loy has been helping victims with the Tri-County program for five years now.
“It was a natural succession from working with the victims of domestic violence,” she said. “I really enjoy what I do, it’s rewarding. It can also be very challenging to ensure all of a victim’s rights are honored, but that’s my responsibility. This office wants all victims to be treated fairly and justly.”
The Tri-County Victim Witness Program is grant funded through the Office of Justice, and supported by Chippewa, Lac qui Parle and Yellow Medicine counties.