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Victims of crimes have certain legal rights. In this article, we’ll define the term “victim” and explain what victims’ rights exist in the United States.

Key Takeaways

  • A victim is an individual against whom a crime is alleged to have been perpetrated or attempted
  • In both civil and criminal law, victims may also be other parties affected by a crime
  • In the United States, two federal laws guarantee certain victims’ rights: the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act (VRRA) and the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA) 

What Is a Victim?

In law, a victim of a crime is an individual against whom a crime is alleged to have been perpetrated or attempted. 

In criminal law, a victim may also be somebody who was party to an offense, or the person against whom a related crime is alleged to have been perpetrated or attempted. 

In civil law, a victim is a person who suffered personal or psychological injury or financial or non-financial loss as the result of a crime. A victim may also be a member of a victim’s immediate family if the original victim is deceased or incapacitated. 

Victims’ Rights

In the United States, there are several federal laws guaranteeing victims certain rights, including the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act (VRRA) (34 U.S.C. § 20141) and the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA) (18 U.S.C. § 3771).

Under the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act, victims are entitled:

  • To have personal property being held as evidence maintained in good condition and returned as soon as it is no longer needed 
  • To be informed of a place where they may receive medical and social services
  • To know the status of the investigation of the crime as long as it is appropriate and will not interfere with the investigation
  • To receive reasonable protection from a suspected offender and their associates
  • To be informed of public and private programs available for counseling, treatment, and other support services

Under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, victims have:

  • The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if they heard other testimony at that proceeding
  • 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
  • The right to be reasonably protected from the accused
  • The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay
  • The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the government in the case
  • The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding
  • The right to be informed in a timely manner of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement
  • The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for their dignity and privacy
  • The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law
  • The right to be informed of the rights under this section and the services described in section 503(c) of the Victims' Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (34 U.S.C. § 20141(c)) and provided contact information for the Office of the Victims' Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice. 

Victims in Sexual Assault Law

If you have been the victim of a sexual assault crime, you have the right to take legal action against the perpetrator in both criminal and civil court in order to receive justice, see the perpetrator be punished, and receive compensation for your losses. It is recommended that you speak with an experienced sexual assault lawyer for a free review of your case and advice as to the next steps.

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