The Criminal Justice system can be a confusing, intimidating, and scary place for crime victims. Many victims do not know what is expected from them, who the lawyers are that are involved, and more importantly they don't know their rights. Many times the District Attorney's office does their best to keep victims involved in the case, but DA's and victim advocates are often overworked and simply do not have the time or resources to ensure every victim's rights are understood and honored. This post is meant to provide you some information to assist you in asserting your rights. Below is a list of things you should know if you were a crime victim:
Who Is The District Attorney: The District Attorney is an attorney that represents the State of Oregon in criminal matters. They are also called prosecutors, DAs, or DDAs. Basically each county has a District Attorney (DA). That person has an office that employs deputy DA's to hold people responsible that have been accused of breaking the law.
Is the DA the Victim's Attorney: No, the DA represents the State of Oregon. The victim is a citizen of the State and has unique rights under the law, but the DA is not the victim's lawyer. If you believe you the defendant should be responsible for paying for your harms and losses you should seek a "civil lawyer" such as myself to represent you. The criminal justice system and the Civil Justice System are not the same. For example, the District Attorney cannot obtain damages for emotional harm, but a civil lawyer can. For more information click here.
Who are "Victim Advocates:" District Attorneys offices have persons that are victims and advocates that do their best to ensure victims rights are honored. In Multnomah County the DA has a Victim Assistance Program or VAP. To learn more click here.
What are Oregon Crime Victim's Rights: Oregon Victims have numerous rights. I have posted some, but not all, of the rights below. Please remember the law is constantly changing and it is best to consult with an attorney or the District Attorney to ensure the law has not changed. Do not rely solely on this post. With that said, see the rights below:
- Crime Victims Must Be Informed of Their Rights: A “law enforcement agency” shall notify a crime victim about his or her rights as soon as reasonably practicable. Or Const, Art I, § 42(1)(g); ORS 147.417(1).
- If You Request, Then You Must Be Informed of All Critical Stages of the Proceedings: A crime victim has, upon specific request, the right to be informed in advance of any critical stage of the proceedings held in open court when the defendant or alleged youth offender will be present and to be present at any such stage of the proceedings. Or Const, Art I, § 42(1)(a)
- The DA Must Account for Your Schedule when Setting a Trial Date: “When resetting any trial date or setting any court hearing requiring the presence of the victim, the court shall take the victim into consideration. The court shall inquire of the district attorney as to whether the victim has been informed of the prospective date and whether that date is convenient for the victim.” ORS 136.145
- If Requested, You Have a Right to Be informed if The Defendant's Probation May be Revoked: Right to Notice of Probation Violation/Revocation Hearings Upon request, a crime victim has the right “to be notified of any hearing before the court that may result in the revocation of the defendant’s probation for a felony or person Class A misdemeanor.” ORS 137.545(11).
- You Have a Right to Be Present at Critical-Stage Proceedings if Requested: A crime victim has, upon specific request, the right to be present at any critical stage of the proceedings held in open court when the defendant or alleged youth offender will be present and to be present at any such stage of the proceedings. Or Const, Art I, § 42(1)(a).
- You Right to Have a Person with you (with some exceptions): The victim of a person crime who was at least 15 years old when the crime is committed, may select a personal representative to accompany the victim to phases of the investigation and prosecution of the crime except for grand jury proceedings and certain child-abuse assessments. ORS 147.425.
- If English is Your Second Language You Have a Right to Court Appointed Interpreter “In any criminal proceeding, the court shall appoint a qualified interpreter and make available appropriate assistive communication devices whenever it is necessary to interpret the proceedings to a victim who is a person with a disability and who seeks to exercise in open court a right that is granted by Article I, section 42 or 43, of the Oregon Constitution, including the right to be present at a critical stage of the proceeding.”
- You Have a Right to Be Heard at a Pretrial Release Hearings if Requested: Under the Oregon Constitution a crime victim has, upon specific request, the right to “be heard at the pretrial release hearing.” Or Const, Art I, § 42(1)(a).
- You Have a Right to Be Heard at Sentencing A crime victim has the constitutional right to be heard “at the sentencing or juvenile court delinquency disposition.” Or Const, Art I, § 42(1)(a). Under statute, a crime victim has the right at sentencing “to reasonably
express any views concerning the crime, the person responsible, the impact of the
crime on the victim, and the need for restitution and compensatory fine.” ORS
137.013. A trial court must inquire whether the victim wishes to be heard before
imposing sentence. ORS 147.512(3).
- You Have a Right to Be Heard at DUII Diversion Hearing: If a DUII offense involves damage to property of a person other than the defendant, the victim of the property damage has a right to be present and to be heard at any hearing on a petition for a diversion agreement. ORS 813.222(1).
- You Have a Right to Consult with the DA in any Plea Negotiation involving a Violent Felony: A crime victim has the constitutional right “to be consulted, upon request, regarding plea negotiations involving any violent felony.” Or Const, Art I, § 42(1)(f). In prosecutions involving violent felonies, a prosecutor must—if requested by the victim—make “reasonable efforts to consult the victim before making a plea offer and before entering into a final plea agreement.” ORS 147.512(2)(a).
- You Have a Right to a Speedy Disposition: By law, crime victims have the rights to “have the trial or adjudication, including the imposition and execution of the sentence or disposition, conducted with all practicable speed” and “to the prompt and final conclusion of the criminal or juvenile delinquency proceeding in any related appellate or post-judgment proceeding.” ORS 147.430(a)-(b); see also ORS 138.627(1)(a) (victims have the right to have their “schedule taken into account [by the trial court] in scheduling . . . post-conviction proceedings”). T
- You Have a Right to Records of Proceedings: A crime victim has a statutory and constitutional right to a copy of the record of a criminal proceeding. See Or Const, Art I, § 42(1)(e) (a crime victim has “[t]he right to have a copy of a transcript of any court proceeding in open court, if one is otherwise prepared”); ORS 147.419 (a crime victim may obtain a copy of a transcript or audio or videotape of criminal proceeding held in open court at the victim’s expense).
- You Have a Right to Information about the Defendant: Under the Oregon Constitution, a crime victim has “[t]he right, upon request, to obtain information about the conviction, sentence, imprisonment, criminal history and future release from physical custody of the criminal defendant or convicted criminal and equivalent information regarding the alleged youth offender or youth offender[.]” Or Const, Art I, § 42(1)(b).
- You Have Right to Information about HIV or Other Communicable Diseases: A victim of a crime involving “the transmission of bodily fluids from one person to another” can request that defendant submit to “a test for HIV and any other communicable disease.” ORS 135.139(1).
- You Have a Right to Information about Emergency Contraception: A sexual assault victim has the right to “unbiased, medically and factually accurate written and oral information about emergency contraception” from the hospital providing the victim care. ORS 435.254(1).
- Right to Information in DUII Proceedings Where You Were in a Crash with a DUII Driver: In any prosecution arising from an automobile collision in which the defendant is alleged to have been DUII, the prosecuting attorney shall make available to a victim, upon request, reports and information disclosed to the defendant. ORS 135.857. That requirement applies to juvenile proceedings. ORS 419C.270
- You Have a Right to Refuse to Speak or Communicate with Anyone Representing the Defendant: Under the Oregon Constitution, crime victims have “[t]he right to refuse an interview, deposition or other discovery request by the criminal defendant or other person acting on behalf of the criminal defendant provided, however, that nothing in this paragraph shall restrict any other constitutional right of the defendant to discovery against the state.” Or Const, Art I, § 42(1)(c). Under statute, crime victims “may not be required to be interviewed or deposed by or give discovery to the defendant or the defendant’s attorney unless the victim consents.” ORS 135.970(3). A defense attorney must inform victims of the identity and capacity of persons contacting the victim on behalf of the defense and the victim’s right to have “a district attorney, assistant attorney general or other attorney or advocate present during any interview or other contact,” ORS 135.970(2).
- If You Were Raped, You Have the Legal Protection to Prevent the Defense From Asking about Your Reputation or Opinion of Past Sexual Behavior. This is called the Rape-Shield Law. In a prosecution for rape, sodomy, unlawful sexual penetration, or sexual abuse, or in a prosecution for an attempt to commit one of these crimes, the following evidence is not admissible: Reputation or opinion evidence of the past sexual behavior of an alleged victim; or reputation or opinion evidence presented for the purpose of showing that the manner of dress of an alleged victim incited the crime or indicated consent. In a prosecution for these crimes or attempt to commit one of these crimes, evidence of a victim’s past sexual behavior other than reputation or opinion evidence is also inadmissible unless admitted in accordance with the Oregon Evidence Code and is evidence that relates to the motive or bias of the alleged victim, is necessary to rebut or explain scientific, medical or testimonial evidence offered by the state, is necessary to establish the identity of the victim or is otherwise constitutionally required to be admitted. ORS 40.210. Oregon Evidence Code (OEC) Rule 412
- You Have a Right to Be Safe and Protected from the Defendant: Under the Oregon Constitution, a crime victim has “[t]he right to be reasonably protected from the criminal defendant or the convicted criminal throughout the criminal justice process” and “[t]he right to have decisions by the court regarding the pretrial release of a criminal defendant based upon the principle of reasonable protection of the victim and the public, as well as the likelihood that the criminal defendant will appear for trial.” Or. Const. art I, § 43(1).
- The Court Must Order No Contact with the Victim at Pre-Trial Release Hearing: When a defendant is released pretrial, the trial court or releasing authority must include a condition that defendant have no contact with the victim. See ORS 135.970 (4)(a)
- You Have a Right to Restitution (Money), but it is limited to out of pocket expenses: Under the Oregon Constitution, a crime victim has “[t]he right to receive prompt restitution from the criminal convicted criminal who caused the victim’s loss or injury.” Or Const, Art I, § 42(1)(d). Upon proof of “nature and amount of damages,” a victim is entitled to full restitution for “economic damages” caused by a defendant’s criminal conduct unless the victim consents to a lesser amount. ORS 137.106(1). Economic damages are: objectively verifiable monetary losses including but not limited to reasonable charges necessarily incurred for medical, hospital, nursing and rehabilitative services and other health care services, burial and memorial expenses, loss of income and past * * * impairment of earning capacity, reasonable and necessary expenses incurred for substitute domestic services, recurring loss to an estate, damage to reputation that is economically verifiable, reasonable and necessarily incurred costs due to loss of use of property and reasonable costs incurred for repair or for replacement of damaged property, whichever is less. ORS 137.103(2); ORS 31.710(2)(a).
- You May Have a Right to a Compensatory Fine: A court may order compensatory fines payable to a crime victim, which may be imposed in addition to statutory restitution, “as a penalty for the commission of a crime resulting in an injury for which the person injured by the act constituting the crime has a remedy by civil action[.]” ORS 137.101. This is a convoluted area of the law in which the statute arguably allows the judge to impose a fine and instead of the fine being paid to the State of Oregon the fine is paid directly to the Victim. Their are nuances regarding how this is done, and a District Attorney or Civil Lawyer such as myself should be contacted. Feel free to call me at 503.224.1658.
- The Crime Victim Compensation Fund May Pay for Medical Bills, Counseling, but it is limited: A crime victim may be eligible for compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Account administered by the Department of Justice. See ORS 147.035 (discussing compensable losses). An emergency award granted “pending a final decision in [a compensation] claim” may be available. ORS 147.055. Oregon law specifically provides for compensation for HIV testing and counseling when a crime involves the transmission of bodily fluids, ORS 135.139(8), and for a sexual-assault medical assessment. ORS 147.395.
The bottom line is if you are a crime victim you have rights. You should assert them. Too often defendant's rights appear to trump victim's rights. That should not occur if you assert your rights and the District Attorney and the Court honors your rights. If you have any questions about your rights, call me for a free crime victim consultation at 503.224.1658. PLEASE REMEMBER THE LAW IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING AND THESE RIGHTS ALSO CHANGE. Please consult with a lawyer or District Attorney to learn your actual rights. This post, this blog, and this web-site may be considered attorney advertising.