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Victims Have Rights

By: the California Office of Victim’s Services

Be free from threats and harassment

The offender cannot threaten or harass you, your relatives or any witnesses to the crime. If this happens, call your local police right away. If the offender is locked up, call the jail or prison and report what happened.

Keep your address confidential

If you were a victim or witness to child abuse, spousal abuse or a sex crime, you can ask to keep your address confidential. This means your address will not be on any form or public document. The defendant’s lawyer can have your address, but should not give it to anyone else.

Testify and help the authorities

You have the right to testify, go to any trial and help the authorities. It is illegal for someone to try to persuade or prevent you from doing these things.

Speak at the Sentencing or Parole Hearing

After the defendant enters a plea or is convicted, you have the right to ask about the sentencing recommendation and to be advised of the sentencing hearing.

Also, before the judge sentences a felony offender or, in certain cases, before a parole board makes a decision on release, you have the right to make a statement. The Victim Witness Center can help you prepare your statement. Your statement can be in person, in writing or on audio or videotape. But, video or audio taped statements must also include a written or typed transcript.

Compensation & Restitution

You (or your next of kin) can ask the court for money for the losses you suffered because of the crime. This is called restitution and is paid by the defendant. You have the right to be compensated for some crime-related losses, like: personal injury, counseling, lost wages, medical bills, funeral and burial expenses. (See Penal Code, Section 1202.4.) The judge will order the offender to pay a restitution fine. The money from this fine goes to fund the Victim Compensation Program. The fine can be from $200 to $10,000. But, restitution does not compensate for “pain and suffering.” If you want this type of compensation, you must contact a civil lawyer.

Get your property back

Some things, like cars, may be returned to you soon after the police recover them. (You may have to pay towing or storage fees.) But, the authorities can hold other things (like the clothes a rape victim was wearing or a purse that was stolen) until after the trial because they need them as evidence in court. Ask the authorities if they can take photographs of your property and keep the photos instead of the property. Ask your local Victim Witness Center for help.