After you have been the victim of a crime, especially one that is violent or sexual in nature, many people feel vulnerable. You might feel like you don’t have any control over what happens next. But California’s Victims’ Bill of Rights, also called Marsy’s Law, gives you the right to be informed and involved in any criminal case resulting from what was done to you. Here’s what you should know about asserting your victims’ rights.
What is Marsy’s Law?
Marsy’s Law, named after Marsy Nicholas who was murdered in 1983, is an amendment to the state constitution guaranteeing specific rights to crime victims. California was the first state to adopt Marsy’s Law, in 2008. However several other states now have, or are considering adopting, similar protections for victims. Here in California, the Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008 sets out a list of several victims’ rights (you can read the specific language of the law here):
- To be treated with fairness and respect for their privacy and dignity, including freedom from intimidation, harassment, and abuse during criminal or juvenile proceedings.
- To receive reasonable protection from the defendant (and those acting on their behalf).
- To have their safety considered before setting a defendant’s bail amount and conditions.
- To protect their confidential and identifying information.
- To refuse or place reasonable limits on interviews, depositions, or other discovery requests.
- To be notified by the prosecutor when a defendant is arrested, charged, extradited, or summoned for pretrial, and to confer with the prosecutor about those events.
- To receive reasonable notice and to attend all public proceedings including arraignments, court hearings, delinquency hearings, and parole or post-conviction release proceedings.
- To speak at any post-arrest release hearing, sentencing, post-conviction release decisions, or any time their victims’ rights are at issue.
- To a speedy trial and final resolution of the case (including post-judgment proceedings).
- To provide victim’s impact information to a probation department preparing a sentencing recommendation.
- To receive a copy of the pre-sentence report (redacted for confidential information).
- To be informed of a defendant’s conviction, sentence, jail or prison placement, scheduled release date, and actual release or escape from custody.
- To receive victim restitution.
- To have their property returned promptly once it is no longer needed as evidence.
- To be informed of and participate in the parole process.
- To have their safety considered prior to the defendant’s parole or post-judgment release.
- To know their victims’ rights.
How to Use California’s Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights Act
Marsy’s Law applies to anyone who “suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological or financial harm” as a result of a completed or attempted crime. It also applies to that person’s spouse, parents, children, siblings, or legal guardian. That means that the victims of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, and other crimes are all entitled to be notified and participate in the criminal cases against their abusers.
However, many of the rights described above only apply upon request by the victim. That means in order to use California’s Victims’ Bill of Rights survivors must take affirmative action. The California Attorney General’s office and San Francisco District Attorney’s office each have victim services divisions, designed to make sure Marsy’s Law is followed. However, because of their role as criminal prosecutors, they are not always able to provide crime victims with the compassionate, thoughtful, and comprehensive representation they deserve.
Why Hiring Your Own Victim’s Advocate After Abuse Helps
Surviving an assault, abuse, or other crime is often traumatic. Going through the process of criminal prosecution and civil litigation can bring you a sense of closure. However, often the process itself can be difficult for survivors to handle, both practically and emotionally. Having your own victims’ rights advocate whose sole interest is protecting your interests can help.
At ADZ Law, LLP, we want to stand up for and beside the victims of crime at every stage of the process. We can help you assert your rights under Marsy’s Law, and make sure the Victims’ Bill of Rights are followed. We can also shield you from direct communications by the defendant’s attorney, helping you avoid accusations, harassment, and secondary trauma as you seek justice and restitution for the harm done to you or your family members. We will assist you in pursuing what you’re entitled to, and support you so that the process is empowering, not intimidating. We represent victims of crime in San Mateo County and the surrounding region of California. We invite you to contact ADZ Law, LLP to schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can help you.