Your Rights as a Crime Victim

Your Rights as a Crime Victim

Read this guide published by the New York State Bar Association regarding your rights as a crime victim.


Introduction

You have been the victim of a crime. Perhaps you were injured or had your money or property stolen. An arrest has been made and the police have told you that the case will be going to court. Now what? What is your role from here on? Where can you get help? What rights do you have as a crime victim?


Victim’s right to have stolen property returned

Where the crime involves a theft of the victim’s property and the police recover the stolen property, the victim has a right to a prompt return of the property unless the district attorney needs to hold onto the property as evidence in the case. Once the case is finished the property must be returned to the victim. A victim is entitled to free replacement of his or her driver’s license, registration or license plates stolen during the commission of a crime.


Victim’s right to restitution from the defendant at the judge’s discretion

When a judge is deciding what sentence to impose on a convicted defendant, the judge must consider forcing the defendant to make restitution to the victim as part of the sentence. The judge can order the defendant to pay money to the victim as a consequence of the crime (such as reimbursement for the victim’s medical expenses).

When a judge orders restitution, the victim does not have to deal directly with the defendant. Payments are made by the defendant to a public agency which transfers the money to the victim. The judge may order the defendant to pay a lump sum amount or to make payments over a period of time. The judge can order the defendant to make restitution to the victim even when the judge also sentences the defendant to a term of imprisonment or a fine. If the defendant is sent to prison, the restitution will be collected from the inmate’s earnings while in prison and while on parole.

The fact that the judge has ordered the defendant to make restitution to the victim as part of the defendant’s criminal sentence does not prevent the victim from filing a civil suit against the defendant for damages in excess of the amount the defendant has paid in restitution.


Victim’s right to compensation from the state

The state of New York has established a Crime Victim’s Compensation Program. The program is mainly designed to help victims who suffer physical injury as a direct result of a crime. It covers medical expenses and lost wages, where the victim would face financial difficulty without help. The program has been expanded to cover property losses in some cases, and some victims do not need to prove financial difficulty.

A compensation claim can be filed by the victim of a crime; or by the surviving spouse, parent, child or dependent of a victim who dies as a result of a crime; or a person who pays for a victim’s burial expenses. A claim can only be filed for costs not reimbursed from some other source. For physical injury resulting from a crime, a victim can receive compensation for medical and certain other expenses, as well as lost wages. Expenses can include counseling for crime victims and their spouses, and the family of a homicide victim; occupational rehabilitation; and the cost of a shelter for a battered spouse or child. A claim can also include the cost of lost or damaged property that is essential to the victim’s health and welfare

If the victim is over 60 or disabled, an essential personal property claim can be made without proving physical injury. Under certain circumstances, a person who is injured or killed aiding a crime victim or a police officer is eligible for compensation similar to other victims. In addition, he or she can be compensated for lost or damaged personal property.


Where to get help

The New York State Office of Victim Services provides a toll free number which is available Monday–Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Call: 1-800-247-8035.

In all counties outside of New York City, you should contact the district attorney’s office for information regarding victim’s assistance programs of all types. As the primary contact, the district attorney’s office has available a list of appropriate public and private agencies to which you may be referred. For more information, including how to file a claim for compensation with the New York State Crime Victim’s Board, visit www.ovs.ny.gov.