Being a victim of a crime can be devastating and has long lasting consequences. Housing, employment, education, privacy, safety, and, in some cases, citizenship can be put in jeopardy because you were attacked.
The Right to Participate in the Criminal Justice Process
In Massachusetts, Connecticut, and federal courts, you have the right to be notified of any court hearing or parole hearing for a defendant who committed a crime against you. You also have the right to be notified if the defendant is released or escapes from prison. You have the right to attend court hearings, to make a statement at any public proceeding involving the case, and to speak with the prosecutor.
The Right to Financial Compensation for Your Losses
The federal system and many state governments have established programs to compensate victims of crime. These programs are designed to reimburse you for out-of-pocket expenses related to a violent crime. Many courts also require the defendant to make restitution as part of the criminal sentence.
The Right to Sue Your Defendant
As a crime victim, you have the right to sue the defendant in civil (rather than criminal) court for compensation of any losses you have suffered. Compensation may be difficult to obtain, however, if the defendant has few assets.
The Right to Protection
Federal law guarantees you the right to “reasonable protection” from a defendant. Depending on the circumstances, you may be entitled to police escorts to and from court, a secure waiting area in the courtroom, relocation of your residence, and even participation in a witness protection program. A court may also issue an order preventing your employer from firing you for taking time off to participate in the justice process.