Little something I put together for the upcoming AFPAD newsletter:
Crime Victims’ Rights in the United States

In August 2005 I attended the National Organization for Victims Assistance (NOVA) annual conference in Orlando, Florida. One session was on victim rights and compensation in the various U.S. States.

Currently 33 states have victim rights amendments to their constitutions. Every state has at least some statutory language protecting victims. Crime victim rights are varied and may include any of the following:

– The right to notice of proceedings
– The right to be present at proceedings or hearings
– The right to be notified of offender release or escape
– The right to restitution
– The right to a speedy trial
– The right to public safety
– The right to be heard

Victim compensation programs are also varied throughout the U.S. States. Government programs provide approximately $450 million in compensation a year nationwide, and 95% of this compensation is administered at the State level. In general the criteria for administering compensation must meet the following criteria:

– The crime must be a crime of violence
– The crime must be reported to the police
– The report must be made within 72 hours; in the case of sexual assault it must be reported within 180 days (most states)
– The request for compensation should be reported within one year of the crime (For Ohio it is two years, for Utah there is no limitation)
– Arrest or conviction does not effect eligibility
– There is no expense requirement (as long as there is not another source of restitution)
– Compensation is not eligible if the victim contributed to the victimization (gang related)

Benefits for victims can include any of the following:

– Medical care
– Mental health care
– Lost wages, loss of support
– Funeral expenses, crime scene cleanup
– Relocation (California, Florida, Alabama and Utah)

There are limits on the amount of compensation provided. In general the maximum allowable is approximately $25,000, with the average claim usually being approximately $2,000. In most states decisions about compensation can be appealed.

Next year’s NOVA conference will take place in Reno, Nevada from July 22 – 27. For information visit the NOVA website at www.trynova.org

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