You have the right not to be silent.
Most states have rights built into their constitutions to assist you when you become a victim of crime. But we’ll let you in on a secret; many of us in the criminal justice system don’t know these rights exist.
When we go to the police academy, the overwhelming amount of training we get has to do with the rights of the offender. Violate those rights and you lose your case. It’s as simple as that.
Police officers are also frustrated by the lack of cooperation of victims, considering that in approximately half of violent crimes the victim knows the offender and may be reluctant to cooperate. Many (close to half) of these crimes are not reported, and when reported the information often comes from a third party, not the victim.
We within the justice system have great sympathy for victims as long as they don’t ask for much. We are madly running from one call to the next and, quite simply, we don’t have the time to track down the person who stole your car or burglarized your home. If it’s a major violent crime, yes, we will take the time because we need you to help solve the case.
If it falls into the other 90 percent of reported crimes, we are not insensitive, just busy.
Bull-feathers! We are public servants who are obligated to serve the needs of citizens. Yep, we are busy and budget cuts are not making the job any easier and yes, we would appreciate a little more cooperation from the people we serve.
So when you report your auto stolen or house burglarized, we will let you in on secret number two, call the victim’s right coordinator within your police department or prosecutors office. He or she will make sure that the officers handling your case give you the respect you deserve (if budget cuts haven’t eliminated their positions).
Your rights as a crime victim:
Most states have amended their constitutions to guarantee certain fundamental rights for crime victims. Typically, these include the following:
The right to be notified of all court proceedings related to the offense.
The right to be reasonably protected from the accused offender.
The right to have input at sentencing (e.g., in the form of a victim impact statement).
The right to information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the offender.
The right to an order of restitution from the convicted offender.
The right to be notified of these rights.
If you are a victim of a crime, these rights apply to you.
You may obtain information about your rights through a local victim/witness assistance program (usually located in the police or prosecutor’s office), the state Attorney General’s Office, or the U.S. Attorney’s Office).
For additional information, see http://www.ovc.gov/publications/infores/whatyoucando_2010/WhatUCanDo_508.pdf