If you’re a crime victim, do you know your rights?
April 11, 2019
There’s no doubt about it: Being the victim of a crime can be traumatic. Not only are you dealing with grief and loss in the wake of a crime perpetrated against you, it might also feel as if you suddenly have to be an expert on the criminal justice system. It can be daunting and discouraging.
Fortunately, the Crime Victim Justice Unit (CVJU) is in your corner. A part of the Department of Public Safety Office of Justice Programs, the CVJU exists to make sure that, as a crime victim, you are treated appropriately and your statutory rights are upheld.
There are a lot of situations in which you might call the CVJU. For example, you might find that the prosecutor isn’t notifying you of key points in the case, such as hearings or plea agreements. Perhaps a member of the criminal justice system, such as a police officer, prosecutor or probation agent hasn’t treated you appropriately – crime victims report disrespect, victim blaming, and dismissiveness of their report or concerns. Or maybe you simply have questions: What is the criminal prosecution process like? How do I get a copy of my police report? What should I expect when a case is investigated or prosecuted?
It could be that you have tried to resolve the issue on your own. If not, the CVJU encourages you to do so before filing a complaint with them. You can find tips for resolving your own complaint on the CVJU’s website.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may be unsuccessful, or it’s overwhelming or too confusing to go down that path. That’s when you should contact the CVJU. When you do so, it generally gets handled one of two ways: informally, or through a formal investigation.
For example, it may just involve someone from the CVJU helping you understand the process and your rights as a victim, making a phone call or two on your behalf, or referring you to a local advocate or agency who can help you. The majority of complaints can be resolved this way.
But sometimes it’s not that simple. In that case, CVJU will go down the road of a formal investigation, seeking information from the agency you are complaining about, asking you for more details, and ultimately assessing your complaint. Most importantly, the goal is to make sure that, as a crime victim, you don’t get lost in the process.
This week (April 7-13) is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and is a good time to remember that crime victim services should be inclusive, accessible and trauma-informed – not just this week, but all year long. So if you’re the victim of a crime and you need help navigating the criminal justice system, remember that the CVJU is on your side. Give them a call.
CVJU Main Contact Info
Help line: 651-201-7310, 800-247-0390 (answered during business hours)