Victims' Rights & Safety

Addressing victims’ rights under tribal law helps the justice system to foster safety and support cooperation with prosecutions. Victims’ rights laws and policies are particularly important for victims of domestic or dating violence. These crimes often cause emotional trauma in addition to physical injury. It may be more difficult for victims to report these crimes because of ongoing relationships with the offender. These victims often are in great danger of future violence after reporting a crime, during investigation and prosecution of cases, and after defendants are released from prison.

Read more about Victims' Rights and Victims' Safety.

Crime Victims’ Rights Act. Enacted in October 2004, the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (part of the Justice for All Act) authorizes program efforts to—

  • Help victims assert and encourage enforcement of victims’ rights.
  • Promote compliance with victims’ rights laws.
  • Fund grant programs and other activities to implement provisions.
  • Provides an enforcement mechanism for rights delineated in the Act.

This Act also gives victims the following rights in federal criminal cases (18 U.S.C. section 3771):

  1. The right to be reasonably protected from the accused.
  2. The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding or any parole proceeding involving the crime, or of any release or escape of the accused.
  3. The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding.
  4. The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding.
  5. The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.
  6. The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.
  7. The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
  8. The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.

Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA). It’s been 30 years since the signing of the VOCA, developed in conjunction with the President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime and the work of victim advocates. This federal law, passed by Congress in 1984 and amended in 1988, called for the establishment of the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and created the Crime Victims Fund (the Fund), which provides funds to states for victim assistance and compensation programs that offer support and services to those affected by violent crimes.

Highlighting Victim Safety:

  • Provide victims with immediate access to advocates. Every victim should be given immediate access to an advocate who can provide safety planning and explain court procedures. A victim should remain paired with her advocate throughout the case (i.e., from police response through post-disposition).
  • Quickly link victims with social services. Advocates should link victims with social service agencies, emergency shelter, food, and civil legal services, as necessary.
  • Keep victims informed. In addition to providing general information and referrals, advocates should provide victims with up-to-date information on their cases. Victims are also more likely to follow through with a case when they clearly understand the legal process.
  • Schedule cases promptly. Another way to enhance victim safety is to schedule domestic violence cases promptly so that victims can get an order of protection quickly. The longer the victim must wait for legal action, the longer she is at risk.
  • Create safe places within the courthouse. Court planners should provide security and comfort for victims. Design elements can include providing private space to speak with advocates and separate waiting areas near the victim services office.
  • Tribal Code Development – Provisions to enhance victim safety include:
    • “Fast Track” programs strengthen victim safety by holding the offender responsible quickly and effectively.
  • Mandatory arrest provisions –
    • Under a domestic violence mandatory arrest policy, if an officer finds probable cause to believe domestic violence has occurred he/she must arrest the offender and transport them to jail for booking. The defendant appears in court the day following the offense. A Notice to Appear is given to the victim requesting their presence the same day the defendant appears. Being present in court allows a victim to:
      • receive immediate support
      • request special conditions for bond
      • leave with a copy of their mandatory protection order (MPO)
      • meet with a deputy district attorney
      • discuss a possible disposition of their case
      • begin safety planning with a victim advocate
    • Mandatory protective orders
      • In criminal cases, a Mandatory Protection Order is issued by the court at the defendant’s first appearance. This mandatory protection order restrains a person from harassing, molesting, intimidating, retaliating against, or tampering with any witness or victim of a crime.
      • The order remains in effect until the final disposition of the case, completion of sentence or acquittal.
    • Domestic violence offender firearm bans
      • Federal law
        • Possession of firearm while subject to order of protection – 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(8)
        • Transfer of firearm to person subject to order of protection – 18 U.S.C. 922(d)(8)
        • Possession of firearm after conviction of misdemeanor crime of domestic violence – 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(9)
        • Transfer of firearm to person convicted of misdemeanor crime of domestic violence – 18 U.S.C. 922(d)(9)
      • Enforcing Domestic Violence Offender Prohibitions: A Report on Promising Practices (Office on Violence Against Women)