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Victims' Rights

SART Considerations

To implement and enforce victims' rights, you need to be aware of the intent and scope of statutory and constitutional provisions for victims' rights in your jurisdiction. The Center for Law and Public Policy on Sexual Violence published a guide to the legal rights of sexual assault victims that outlines many of the questions you should ask when assessing your current statutes:37


  • Are there challenges or repercussions in the criminal justice system if victims retain an attorney?
  • Is there a statute allowing defense attorneys to interview victims? Are victims advised of their rights before defense attorneys contact them?


  • How are victims informed of their confidentiality rights and privileged communication laws?
  • Do victims have specific privacy rights such as keeping their addresses and Social Security numbers out of public documents? (For an example of address confidentiality in this toolkit, see Address Confidentiality–PA).


  • Are victims notified of arraignment dates? Do they have a right to attend?
  • Do victims have rights regarding a suspect's or an offender's conditions of release?


  • Do victims have a right to speedy trials?
  • Are victims' schedules considered when the court determines trial dates?
  • Can victims attend trials? Are there any exceptions or limitations to this right?


  • Can victims give impact statements?
  • If so, can they make sentencing recommendations?

Probation and Parole

  • Are victims notified of probation or parole hearings and, if so, who notifies them?
  • Can victims speak at parole hearings?


  • Are victims notified when their cases are appealed?
  • Are victims notified of an appellate argument or opinion?

In 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion upholding the right of federal crime victims to speak at sentencing hearings (Kenna v. United States District Court for the Central District of California, No. 05-73467). Although the decision is related to victims in federal court, your SART may want to consider the following:38

  1. In passing the [Crime Victims' Rights Act], it was the intent of Congress to allow federal crime victims to speak at sentencing hearings, not just submit victim impact statements.
  2. Victims have a right to speak even if there is more than one criminal sentencing. This ruling is important in cases with multiple defendants. . . .
  3. The remedy for a crime victims denied the right to speak at a sentencing hearing is to have the sentence vacated and a new sentencing hearing held in which the victims are allowed to speak.