Victims' Rights
Steve Twist  -  2005/8/31
I have a grave concern regarding Alaska's Victims' Rights Amendment which requires that victims be notified of all hearings ~ The amendment does not spell out that the victims must be notified of continuations or postponements of hearings which occur on a regular basis. Victims are notified of hearings or trial start dates, they prepare themselves mentally and emotionally, drive downtown, find and pay for parking and find their way to the right courtroom before they find out that the hearing has been continued. Is this a problem in other states and how is it or has it been handled?
1.  c. baughman
 In Hillsborough County, our victim counselors and victim advocates have a great working relationship with our prosecutors. Our VINE Letters encourage the victimsNOK to contact us regarding any questions they may have regarding court dates. Since the prosecutors have a good handle on their cases, they can usually tell us within a week whether or not a case is going to go to trial or if it will be continued. Sometimes, getting specific information can still be difficult when you have victimsNOK coming in from out of State and trying to make travel plans. As far as the motions, disposition hearings, status hearings and pre-trial conferences, we provide the victims with enough information regarding what will be discussed so that they can make an informed decision on whether or not they want to attend. If the victimNOK is unable to attend or chooses not to attend, the advocates will attend the hearing and provide the information on what happen at the hearing to the victimNOK on a later date. I hope this is helpful.
2.  Steve Twist
 The problem of lack of notice for last minute schedule changes seems to be universal. However, the requirement to provide notice should be understood to mean reasonable notice and we would argue that notice is unreasonable when it fails to give adequate time to a person so they can organize their affairs to attend or not as the case may be. Under the Alaska Const the right to be informed, to be present, and to be heard when authorized at all crucial stages should be interpreted to require reasonable notice as I described. In AZ one thing we have tried which helps is the following law which requires 5 day notice before a scheduled proceeding. It still is a problem because basically its hard to change the culture. But we must keep fighting.A.R.S. 13-4409. Notice of criminal proceedingsA. Except as provided in subsection B, the court shall provide notice of criminal proceedings, for criminal offenses filed by information, complaint or indictment, except initial appearances and arraignments, to the prosecutor's office at least five days before a scheduled proceeding to allow the prosecutor's office to provide notice to the victim.B. If the court finds that it is not reasonable to provide the five days' notice to the prosecutor's office under subsection A, the court shall state in the record why it was not reasonable to provide five days' notice.C. On receiving the notice from the court, the prosecutor's office shall, on request, give notice to the victim in a timely manner of scheduled proceedings and any changes in that schedule.
Do you believe that funding for state Victim Advocate programs will continue to decrease, and, if so, what can counties do to help increase funding for victim assistance programs?
1.  Steve Twist
 The fight to save the VOCA Fund goes on even today. Sen. Kyls office is working to stop a last minute raid on the fund proposed by some for the budget reconciliation. To increase funding the raids have to stop and the cap of $650M has to be raised. For more info on this I urge you to contact Steve Derene at
How can we amend 18 USCA 3771 to include victims of juvenile defendants? These victims do not have many rights. They can write victim impact statements, but cannot testify as to victim impact. They can give us their input, however, we cannot give them feedback, except for the end result. This is very difficult on victims and their families. The goal is to "protect" juvenile defendants, however, there is an innocent victim involved. The law should provide to allow the victim and their parents/guardian in the courtroom; if not this generous, to at least inform them of the outcome of hearings. How can the law be revised in support of these victims? They deserve the same rights as other victims.
1.  Steve Twist
 The CVRA establishes rights for the crime victim. Crime victim is defined to mean a person directly or proximately harmed as a result of the commission of a Federal offense or an offense in the District of Columbia. In places where similar definitions refer to the commission of a crime and not an offense, courts have said a juvenile offense is not a crime but rather a delinquent act and therefore rights do not attach. However, I am not aware of any court construction of the CVRA that has so limited the meaning of the word offense. I will look further into this question.
What place, if any, do you think perpetrator/victim meetings or groups have in the healing process for both sides. A chance for victims to ask the hard questions of "why?, why me?, how could you, what were you thinking, etc" and for the pepetrators to see first hand the damage they have done and hopefully increase the level of victim empathy which can be one of the hardest points in their treatment/therapy to consistently embrace. I realize timing would be a huge consideration. I definitely take into account the possibility of re-vicitmization, which I would want to guard against under ALL circumstances. I am curious about your experience in this area and your thoughts. Could this be a productive activity?
1.  MC
 I believe it is the right of every victim to have the opportunity for dialogue if they choose. Please read the first posting and contact me if you desire. I can be reached at
2.  JHWC
 Some perpetrators' victims feel the need for forgiveness in healing and closure. This should not be required but on a voluntary basis.
3.  Karin Ho
 Although you didn't mention it, I'm assuming the question is referencing, or including crimes of violence.There are now several corrections-based programs, including here in Ohio, that facilitate meetings between victims and offenders. Some of the consistent practices of these programs you'll see is that they are victim-initiated and totally voluntary by all participants.We are now at a point where you have many great resources available nationally, unlike just a few years ago. Feel free to email me directly if you would like more information or contact names and numbers of facilitators that could share their experiences with you.Thanks!Karin
4.  Steve Twist
 I think victims should have the right to confront or address or meet with their perpetrator, but never be forced to. The problems of repentance and forgiveness are complex and I commend to anyone the work of Prof. Jeffrie Murphy on these subjects.
In states that have implemented statutory methods of enforcement for victims rights, was there opposition during the legislative process from prosecutor associations? If so, how was such opposition overcome? I guess my real question is how to get States Attorneys offices to become partners in our efforts to create an enforcement mechanism for victims rights?
1.  Steve Twist
 The most important method for enforcement of victims rights is standing, literally the right of the victim to stand in the court before the judge and ask for her rights to be enforced and protected. This legal standing means the victim can go to court, independent of the prosecutor, and be heard on a matter affecting her rights. In places where this is used effectively, prosecutors have come to see the victims role not as a hindrance. In AZ, prosecutors supported victim standing. Victims want what prosecutors bring the guilty to justice. Giving the victim a voice (but not a veto as we say) has helped achieve the goals of justice and even skeptical prosecutors can be persuaded of this in time.
Prosecutors in the Valley (Arizona) are pushing towards moving all Interfering with Judicial Proceedings (OP violations) to the County for prosecution, even when it is a misdemeanor offense level. This is bogging the system down and some aren't even getting prosecuted. What is being done to further the strength of the OP? It seems that it is not enforced, not prosecuted or punished hard enough. What can be done at a local level to get further support for advocates in these issues?
1.  Susan
 I would appreciate the ability to learn more from this post as well.I am wondering why so many good questions posted end up with private conversation, It seems that we can all benefit.
2.  Terri Woodmanse
 Please feel free to contact me too regarding this issue, I am interested in your investigation. My email is Thanks.
3.  Terri Woodmanse
 I will give you a call on Thursday about this issue.
4.  Wendy Hickey
 I would like to be copied on any e-mail communications you have outside the forum on this question. The Law School Clinic where I teach has an ongoing statewide investigation project on the enforcement and prosecution of Adult and Child Orders of Protection and it would be helpful to this project to know your thoughts and comments on the questions posed above. Thank you.
5.  Steve Twist
 I would suggest contacting me directly about this. We can talk about the issue and perhaps I can help off-line. You can call me at 602-207-2940 or email me at
Justice for All Act. How is it doing? Can you provide list of legal resources to refer crime victims?
1.  Steve Twist
 The CVRA (note to all: please refer to the new federal victims rights act as the CVRA- Crime Victims Rights Act- which is Title 1 of the Justice for All Act. The Justice for All act deals with many things other than victims rights so the best reference is to the CVRA) is now being construed in the courts and the record is mixed, as we had feared. Some courts have given it solid construction and enforced it, others have not. We are litigating one such case now in the 9th Circuit. If anyone wants help for a victim of a federal offense please contact me or the National Crime Victim Law Institute and ask for help. There are now free legal clinics for crime victims in AZ, CA, MD, SC, UT, NM, and elsewhere. We are working with Congress to help spread these clinics across the country.
Hi. I am writing a report on the Victims' Rights Amendment and am trying to find out why it was never put in the U.S. constitution.
1.  Lora
 I am going to the website you mention and check out the CVRA you are purposing. I am in with the organization of C.O.P.S {Concerns of Police Survivors} in my city as well as a victim and like to be aware of this. Thanks!
2.  Steve Twist
 This concern is unfounded. Courts always balance competing rights, e.g., fair trial and free press. In those jurisdictions where vicitms do have a right to a speedy trial this has not proven to be a problem. What courts do is balance the rights and interests of everyone.
3.  bill france
 One resistance to Victim's Rights Ammend is the administrative nightmare that would result from trying to balance completing constituional rights. Imagine the difficulty of getting a hearing continued if the victim refused to waive a right to speedy trial.
4.  Steve Twist
 The proposed Crime Victims Right Amendment to the U.S. Const. has not passed because it is not yet supported by 67 U.S. Senators. Opponents have continued to say that constitutional rights for victims are not needed and that the amendment will take away rights from defendants. We respectfully disagree. For more info please go to
What's next for "National Victims Constitutional Amendment Passage"?
1.  Steve Twist
 Our great national coalition of victims rights groups (NVCAP) in support of the crime vicitme rights amendment will no doubt continue to lead the way inadvocating for constitutional rights for crime vicitms. The federal statute (the CVRA) is a test of whether statutes work. While we hope they do and will fight to make them work our experience tells us that only constitutional rights have the power to change the culture. So we will fight for state and federal constitutional rights as well.
Do victims have the right to accompaniment during police interviews? And how can advocates "enforce" this right?
1.  Steve Twist
 There are some juriosdictions that permit an advocate or relative to be present for support, especially for minors. It creates some evidentiary issues. The answer really depends on the state.
In our state, we have had a Crime Victims' Rights Amendment since 1999. The Amendment was an unfunded mandate so most people are not providing the services that they are now responsible for offering. What ideas do you have for creating a position/s that could simply "monitor" compliance? Also, how can we get our state legislators to be more interested in this issue.
1.  Steve Twist
 In a state with constitutional rights you should focus on making sure that the victim has standing to enforce the rights established. This can be done through court litigation or statute. I can help provide ideas for either so contact me at Legislators always follow the public's lead so make the stories of victims and their re-vicitmization by the system more widely known to the public.
I am concerned with rights of juvenile victims also. I have experienced much opposition in allowing victims to attend the sentencing hearing in juvenile cases. They have virtually no imput, except to complete a Victim Impact Statement. What can be done to improve the right's of victims of juvenile crime.
1.  Steve Twist
 You will need constitutional or statutory reform that establishes rights for victims in these cases.
What states currently have Victim Standing? Is this known only in Arizona?
1.  Steve Twist
 This is the hot issue we are fighting. Inthe new CVRA vicitm standing is explicit, as it is in AZ. A complete review of all the states has not been done yet but Prof. Beloof and NCVLI are in the best position to track this. e-mail me separately at
Though we have, hopefully settled for a temporary extension of law in regard to Victims' Rights in the US Constitution, where does this currently stand-are we still requesting rights in the US Constitution? If so what is my part?
1.  Steve Twist
 We are still strong advocates for constitutional rights. We need to give the new CVRA a fair test and it would help for everyone to advocate in their state that the US Atty vigorously enforce the new law and its writ of mandamus to the court of appeals remedy. Let us know of places where the law is or is not working.
What is your opinion on DV victims required/subponnaed to court for bond hearings. The prosecurter wants them there to tell their side.
1.  Steve Twist
 I support the right of the victim to be present and heard at all post-arrest release proceedings. If the victim chooses not to be present the prosecutor should have the ability to hearsay in the victims statement to protect against further trauma for the victim.
I work within corrections and have concerns about the safety of victims throughout the parole violation hearing process. The environment can be unsafe, frightening and frustrating. I'm wondering if there's any movement toward on improving 'rights' directly related to this process? Thanks!
1.  A. Wolf
 We utilize remote videoconferencing so that the offenders and the victims are not in the same physical location. The offenders are heard from one of seven institutions and the victims are heard in our central office, actually in front of the Parole Board. Happy to provide additional info. if desired.
2.  Steve Twist
 Victim's should have the right to safety at every proceeding and it should be the government's duty to protect that right. The new CVRA establishes in the first paragraph the right to be protected from the accused. Here accused means the perpetrator whether charged or convicted. This right should be enforced at the parole stage. In state cases the right to be free from harassment, abuse, or intimidation, or the right to safety can all be used to help the vicitm. the key is to enforce the rights by going to court.
This is for NY State. We have found that some police depts. allow advocates to be present while others refuse. Is there a state law that gives this right to victims?
1.  Steve Twist
 I'm not sure about the law in NY so let's talk about this off-line and I'll find out.
Is there anything that can be done to change the fact that: In places where similar definitions refer to the commission of a crime and not an offense, courts have said a juvenile offense is not a crime but rather a delinquent act and therefore rights do not attach. ? It just seems so unfair that juveniles today can commit adult crimes like murder, rape, etc. and these heinous crimes are considered to be delinquent acts. It seems like in some cases the juvenile offender has more rights than the victim, and this is really a disgrace to our justice system. What can be done to change this? We need to become a society that focuses on the health and well being of the victim, not the offender.
1.  Steve Twist
 This problem can be cured by statute or state constitutional amendment...although ultimately we believe we will need a federal amendment to make it all work.
Hi, I'm currently establishing the victim services division for the police department. I am in the process of writing the policy for the department. I have many choices and am trying to decide what information absolutely should be included. Do you have new information you have found is so important and must be included?
1.  Kari Warren
 You may want to contact local government agencies, social service agencies and non-profit agencies working with this population. In Fairfax County, VA we are reaching far and wide to reconstruct our approach to educating both the victims and police in matters of violence. Currently, we are meeting once a month with as many players as possible. This group has tackled any possible gaps/loopholes in the entire judicial process and have collectively done some excellent problem solving. We are also recommending to the state legislature new regulations that would enhance our current laws. The crux of my suggestion is to involve as many people as is possible. Different agencies see their victims in different lights and can definitely give you several vantage points in which to draft your procedures.
2.  To many victims
 I copied and pasted that website you gave for the booklet and got nothing. I would really like to have and read that booklet. Is there any other site that would have it?
3.  danielle
 Does your police department have a citizens review board on police practices? I have not heard this from the Police Dept, or the board, but from the DV advocates and victims that the police do not take a report when the victim feels the officer should have. If the victim feels that a report should have been taken, they can file a complaint against the officer for not taking a report. At least the issue would be reviewed.
4.  John Stein
 I found that booklet that I mentioned in my last posting. It's even better than I remembered. The Table of Contents reads:DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES GOVERNING TREATMENT OF VICTIMS IN THE CRIMINALJUSTICE SYSTEM; THE IMPACT OF CRIME; PARTICULAR CIRCUMSTANCES (On children, with a Note for Carers -- I guess caregivers was too complicated a term for our Auzzie friends); DEALING WITH THE MEDIA; THE LEGAL PROCESS; ASSISTANCE; COMPENSATION; WHO CAN HELP?; GIVING FEEDBACK OR LODGING COMPLAINTS;LIST OF LEGAL TERMS.The 67-page book -- it's no booklet -- can be found
5.  JHWC
 Correct screening for domestic violence would very instrumental in determining when domestic violence has occurred. Included should be policy and procedure governing how police should respond to domestic violence victims. Also for the victim resources, resources, resources.
6.  John Stein
 I'm moving the referral to me on to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which has an extensive OVC-funded program to promote victim-oriented policing. Track them via (I think). They may have good models.Beyond policies and procedures, key issues for reporting victims is to learn about all victim rights and localstate services from the first-responding officer -- a somewhat tricky logistical problem for many officers and departments.Years back, the Rochester (NY) PD devised a fool-proof model -- make the initial incident report a two- or more-copy form, with the last, tear-off copy given to the victim. That form has key info on the front -- the officer's name, the case number, etc. -- and all the (inadeqauate) NY victim rights are listed on the back, along with contact infor for local services, comp, etc.The state of South Australia has gone one better: the booklet police give all victims is a multi-page coverage of rights, complaint procedures, how to get help, how to deal with your own turmoil, etc. The officer has a box to check on the incident report as to whether the boolet was given plus whether a specific referral was made. That data is part of the computer record -- and under a program stablished by the Attorney General, an advocate does periodic spot checks as to whether the boxes were actually checked -- and whether they were done do truthfully.In short order, compliance, I'm told, became very high. Google for AG or PD Website -- the victim rights stuff is there somewhere.
7.  Steve Twist
 I would defer to oethers more expert in John Stein at NOVA who will know who to put you in touch with and how to help. In general I think officers should be as familiar with victims rights as they are with defendants rights and treat them with equal respect.
There was a question about Victim Standing. Could you please explain what that is?
1.  Steve Twist
 Standing is a legal word that means just what it says (rare, I know, for terms of law!)Literally it means the right to stand in the courtroom and be heard. It is a grant of power that comes from a constitutional provision, a statutory provision, or even caselaw that recognizes the standing of the victim to enforce her rights. Here is the AZ provision:13-4437. Standing to invoke rights; recovery of damages; right to counselA. The victim has standing to seek an order, to bring a special action or to file a notice of appearance in an appellate proceeding seeking to enforce any right or to challenge an order denying any right guaranteed to victims under the victims' bill of rights, article II, section 2.1, Constitution of Arizona, any implementing legislation or court rules. In asserting any right, the victim has the right to be represented by personal counsel at the victim's expense.It can also just be established in caselaw....the fact that the law creates a right can set the stage for a victim to argue in court that she has standing to enforce the right.
In the Armed Forces, we have come a long way in dealing with domestic violence; what, from your perspective, is still a "sore issue" and which resources would you offer?
1.  raphaela brown
 where could i find more info about cvra? scanned through hundreds of websites but could not find the agenda.
2.  Steve Twist
 Vicitms of domestic violence should be afforded all the rights that are established in the CVRA. To that end these rights must be enforced in military cases. Vicitms should have legal services to enforce them.
Utah's legal clinic is now active. However, I find it puzzling why they are prohibited to represent federal victims. Why would the grant from the National Law Institute prohibit representing federal victims?
1.  Steve Twist
 This is an issue that will have to be taken up with OVC. As a matter of policy I of course think the clinics should be representing all vicitms including victims of federal offenses.
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