Victim Rights

THE FOLLOWING ARE YOUR RIGHTS AS A VICTIM OR WITNESS
(Click here for a downloadable PDF of the following information.)


We realize that for many persons, being a victim or witness to a crime may be your first experience with the criminal and juvenile justice systems. As a victim or witness, you have certain rights within the system. This information is being provided to assist with questions you may have regarding those rights. For more information, please contact the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) and/or the appropriate law enforcement agency (LEA) handling your case. 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROCESS
 
The stages of the criminal justice system are as follows: 

  • CRIME COMMITTED- After a crime is reported to law enforcement an investigation will be conducted. If law enforcement is able to collect enough evidence, they may make an arrest. 
  • ARREST- Suspect(s) taken to jail, fingerprinted and photographed. Some are immediately released or have to post a bond to ensure they will show up in court. (or)  INTAKE Victim reports a crime to the local State Attorney’s Office. If probable cause is found, the State Attorney’s Office may choose to file charges and summons the suspect into court. 
  • FIRST APPEARANCE - Occurs within 24 hours of an arrest. Each suspect kept in jail must appear before a Judge who establishes whether charges are reasonable. The Judge will also consider whether a bond should be set and if so how much. The Judge will also consider conditions of release and appoint a defense attorney if the suspect cannot afford one. 
  • FILING OF FORMAL CHARGES - The State Attorney’s Office may file formal charges after reviewing law enforcement arrest reports, and within 21 days in certain circumstances. 
  • ARRAIGNMENT- The accused is formally charged and enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. 
  • TRIAL PREPARATIONS- The prosecutor and defense attorney interview witnesses and exchange evidence in preparation for trial. 
  • TRIAL The prosecutor presents evidence to either the judge or a jury about the case. The defendant may be found guilty or not guilty. The process ends if the defendant is found not guilty. 
  • PLEA- Defendant pleads guilty or no contest without a trial. 
  • SENTENCING- If the defendant is found guilty, the Judge reviews sentencing guidelines, plea agreements, etc., and determines what type of sentence the defendant should receive. 

JUVENILE JUSTICE PROCESS 

  • INTAKE- The process of determining where a child under the age of 18 will be placed until the case is resolved. There are three forms of detention status: home, non-secure or secure. 
  • DIVERSION PROGRAMS- An alternative to trial where the juvenile is placed in a community based program such as juvenile arbitration, juvenile alternative services program (JASP), or a treatment plan (Walker plan). If a juvenile successfully completes the diversion program, then the charges are generally dismissed. 
  • FORMAL CHARGES- The filing of a petition in court by the State Attorney’s Office. The charge may be filed in either juvenile court or adult court, depending upon the crime and age of the offender. 
  • ARRAIGNMENT- The accused is formally charged and enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. 
  • ADJUDICATORY HEARING- The trial of the juvenile, conducted in front of a judge. The judge will decide whether the juvenile committed the charged offense(s). 
  • DISPOSTIONAL HEARING (SENTENCING)- When a juvenile is found to have committed a delinquent act the court will hold a dispositional hearing to determine which sanctions to impose on the juvenile. The sanctions could range from community-based sanctions like probation and community services up to residential commitment. 
  • JUVENILES TRIED AS ADULTS- Juveniles who commit very serious crimes may be tried as adults. Juveniles who are prosecuted as adults may be sentenced to adult or juvenile sanctions. 

YOUR RIGHTS IN THE CRIMINAL AND JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEMS 

If you are a victim of a crime or a witness because you have seen, heard, or know something about a crime that has been committed, you are important to the case. Your testimony may be necessary to establish the facts. Understandably, you might feel anxious about testifying in court. However, without your testimony the defendant might go unpunished. 

VICTIM A person against whom a crime was committed. Some victims suffer physical injury or property damage, and some have psychological injury or both. Victims have certain rights in Florida. Others who can claim these rights are the victim’s parent or guardian if the victim is a minor, the lawful representative of the victim or of the victim’s parent or guardian if the victim is a minor, and the next of kin of a homicide victim. As a victim of a crime, you have the following rights: 

  1. Either you or the State Attorney’s Office with your consent, have standing to assert any legal rights of a crime victim as provided by law or The Florida Constitution. 
  2. In some cases, victims (or their relatives where the victim is deceased) may be eligible for financial compensation from the State of Florida. Information regarding eligibility may be obtained from the State Attorney’s Office, local Witness Coordination Office (where available), law enforcement agency or from the Bureau of Crimes Compensation, Office of the Attorney General 1-800-226-6667. 
  3. The right to receive information on available crisis intervention services and local community services to include counseling, shelter, legal assistance, or other types of help, depending on the particular circumstances. Telephone numbers of these services are provided at the end of this brochure. 
  4. The right to receive information regarding the role of the victim in the criminal or juvenile process, including what the victim may expect from the system as well as what the system may expect from the victim. 
  5. The right to receive information regarding the stages of the criminal or juvenile justice process and the manner in which information about such stages may be obtained. Note: You cannot be notified if we cannot locate you. It is your responsibility to keep the State Attorney’s Office informed of any changes in your address or telephone number. 
  6. The right to be informed, present, and heard when relevant, at all crucial stages of a criminal or juvenile proceeding, to the extent the right does not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused. 
  7. The right, if you are incarcerated, to be informed and submit written statements at all crucial stages of the criminal and juvenile proceedings. 
  8. The right to a prompt and timely disposition of the case as long as it does not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused. 
  9. The right to be notified of the arrest and release of the offender, including release to community control and/or work release. When an arrest is made in a reported case, the victim, relatives of minor victims and relatives of homicide victims, where those persons have provided current addresses and telephone numbers to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, and the State Attorney’s Office shall be notified. 
  10. The right to receive information on the steps available to law enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office to protect you from intimidation and/or harassment. It is a third degree felony to knowingly use intimidation or physical force, or threaten another person, or attempt to do so, or engage in misleading conduct toward another person, or offer pecuniary benefit or gain to another person. If you are being threatened or intimidated, please contact the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office or any law enforcement officer. 
  11. The right of the victim of domestic violence to be informed of the address confidentiality program administered through the Attorney General’s Office. You may contact the Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-226-6667. The State Attorney’s Office may assist with this paper work if necessary. 
  12. The right of each victim or witness who has been scheduled to attend a criminal or juvenile justice proceeding to be notified as soon as possible by the agency or person scheduling his/her appearance of any change in scheduling which will affect the victim’s appearance. 
  13. The right to receive advance notification of judicial and post judicial proceedings relating to the case, including all proceedings or hearings relating to:
    • The arrest of the accused. 
    • The release of the accused pending judicial proceedings, any modification of release condition to include release to community control or work release.
    • Proceedings in the prosecution or petition for delinquency of the accused, including the filing of the accusatory instrument, the arraignment, disposition of the accusatory instrument, trial or adjudicatory hearing, sentencing or disposition hearing, appellate review, subsequent modification of sentence, collateral attack of a judgment, and when a term of imprisonment, detention, or involuntary commitment is imposed, the release of the defendant or juvenile offender from such imprisonment, detention or juvenile offender from such imprisonment, detention or commitment by expiration of sentence or parole and any meeting held to consider such release. 
  14. The right to not be excluded from any portion of any hearing, trial or proceeding pertaining to the offense based solely upon the fact that such person is subpoenaed to testify, unless the court determines otherwise. 
  15. In addition to the provisions of s. 921.143, F.S., the rights of the victim of a felony involving physical or emotional injury or trauma, or in a case in which the victim is a minor child or in a homicide, the guardian or family of the victim shall be consulted by the State Attorney in order to obtain the views of the victim or family about the disposition of any criminal or juvenile case brought about as a result of such crime, including their views about: 
    • The release of the accused pending judicial proceedings. 
    • Plea Agreements. 
    • Participation in pretrial diversion programs. 
    • Sentencing of the accused. 
  16. The right to review certain portions of a pre-sentence investigation report for adult and youthful offenders prior to the sentencing of the accused. 
  17. The right to a prompt return of property unless there is a compelling law enforcement need to retain it.
  18. The right to request that the State Attorney or law enforcement agency help you explain to employers and creditors that you may face additional burdens by taking time off from work to assist law enforcement and you may undergo serious financial strain either because of the crime or by cooperating with authorities. 
  19. Law Enforcement agencies and the State Attorney shall inform you of your right to request and receive restitution and of your rights of enforcement in the event an offender does not pay. The State Attorney shall seek your assistance in the documentation of your losses for the purpose of requesting and receiving restitution. Note: If an order of restitution is converted to a civil lien or civil judgment against the defendant, the clerks shall make available at their office, as well as on their website, information provided by the Secretary of State, the court, or The Florida Bar on enforcing the civil lien or judgment. The State Attorney shall inform you, if and when restitution is ordered. 
  20. The right to submit an oral or written impact statement to the court, pursuant to s. 921.143 F.S., prior to sentencing of the offender. The State Attorney or any assistant state attorney shall advise all victims or, when appropriate, the victim's parent, guardian, next of kin, or lawful representative that statements, whether oral or written, shall relate to the facts of the case and the extent of any harm, including social, psychological, or physical harm, financial losses, loss of earnings directly or indirectly resulting from the crime for which the defendant is being sentenced, and any matter relevant to an appropriate disposition and sentence. 
  21. The right to receive reasonable consideration and assistance from employees of the State Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, or Police Department. When requested, you will be assisted in locating accessible transportation and parking, and shall be directed to separate pretrial waiting areas when such facilities are available. When requested, you shall receive assistance in attempting to locate translators when practicable. 
  22. The right to be notified when the offender escapes from custody. The State Attorney shall make every effort to advise the victim, material witness, parents or legal guardian of a minor who is a victim or witness, or immediate relative of a homicide victim of the escape of a criminal defendant. The State Attorney shall also notify the Sheriff of the county where the criminal charge or petition for delinquency arose. The Sheriff shall offer assistance upon request. 
  23. The right of the victim to request that a victim advocate be permitted to attend and be present during any deposition. The victim advocate may be designated by the State Attorney’s Office, Sheriff’s Office, or Municipal Police Department, or one representative from a not-for-profit victim services organization, including, but not limited to, rape crisis centers, domestic violence advocacy groups, and alcohol abuse or substance abuse groups. 
  24. The right of the victim of a sexual offense to have the courtroom cleared, with certain exceptions during his or her testimony, regardless of the victim’s age or mental capacity. 
  25. The right to request, in certain circumstances that the offender be required to attend a different school than the victim or siblings of the victim. If the victim of an offense committed by a juvenile is a minor, and the victim or any sibling of the victim attends or is eligible to attend the same school as that of the offender, the Department of Juvenile Justice or the Department of Corrections shall notify the victim’s parent or legal guardian of the right to attend the sentencing or disposition of the offender and request that the offender be required to attend a different school. 
  26. The right of the victim who is not incarcerated to not be required to attend discovery depositions in any correctional facility. 
  27. The statutory obligation of the victim, or next of kin of a homicide victim, that any information gained pursuant to FS Chapter 960, regarding any case handled in juvenile court, must not be revealed to any outside party, except as reasonably necessary in pursuit of legal remedies. 
  28. The right to know in certain cases and at the earliest possible opportunity, if the person charged with an offense has tested positive for hepatitis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. In such cases, upon request of the victim or the victim’s legal guardian, or the parent or legal guardian of the victim if the victim is a minor, the court shall order such person to undergo hepatitis and HIV testing. In some cases, you can be notified of the results of the test within two weeks of the court’s receipt of the results. 
  29. The right to request, for specific crimes, that your home and work telephone numbers, home and work addresses, and personal assets not be disclosed to anyone. 
  30. The right of a victim of a sexual offense to request the presence of a victim advocate during the forensic medical examination. An advocate from a certified rape crisis center shall be permitted to attend any forensic medical examination. 
  31. No law enforcement officer, prosecuting attorney, or government official shall ask or require a victim of a sexual offense to submit to a polygraph examination or other truth-telling device as a condition of the investigation. 

To learn more and review this chapter in its entirety, please refer to Florida Statutes, Chapter 960, entitled Victim Assistance.

THE FOLLOWING OUTLINES CRIME VICTIM'S RIGHTS UNDER MARSY'S LAW 
To preserve and protect the right of crime victims to achieve justice, ensure a meaningful role throughout the criminal and juvenile justice systems for crime victims, and ensure that crime victims’ rights and interests are respected and protected by law in a manner no less vigorous than protections afforded to criminal defendants and juvenile delinquents, every victim is entitled to the following rights, beginning at the time of his or her victimization:

  1. The right to due process and to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s dignity.
  2. The right to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse.
  3. The right, within the judicial process, to be reasonably protected from the accused and any person acting on behalf of the accused. However, nothing contained herein is intended to create a special relationship between the crime victim and any law enforcement agency or office absent a special relationship or duty as defined by Florida law.
  4. The right to have the safety and welfare of the victim and the victim’s family considered when setting bail, including setting pretrial release conditions that protect the safety and welfare of the victim and the victim’s family.
  5. The right to prevent the disclosure of information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim.
  6. A victim shall have the following specific rights upon request: (a) The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of, and to be present at, all public proceedings involving the criminal conduct, including, but not limited to, trial, plea, sentencing, or adjudication, even if the victim will be a witness at the proceeding, notwithstanding any rule to the contrary. A victim shall also be provided reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any release or escape of the defendant or delinquent, and any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated. (b) The right to be heard in any public proceeding involving pretrial or other release from any form of legal constraint, plea, sentencing, adjudication, or parole, and any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated. (c) The right to confer with the prosecuting attorney concerning any plea agreements, participation in pretrial diversion programs, release, restitution, sentencing, or any other disposition of the case. (d) The right to provide information regarding the impact of the offender’s conduct on the victim and the victim’s family to the individual responsible for conducting any presentence investigation or compiling any presentence investigation report, and to have any such information considered in any sentencing recommendations submitted to the court. (e) The right to receive a copy of any presentence report, and any other report or record relevant to the exercise of a victim’s right, except for such portions made confidential or exempt by law. (f) The right to be informed of the conviction, sentence, adjudication, place and time of incarceration, or other disposition of the convicted offender, any scheduled release date of the offender, and the release of or the escape of the offender from custody.
    (g) The right to be informed of all post-conviction processes and procedures, to participate in such processes and procedures, to provide information to the release authority to be considered before any release decision is made, and to be notified of any release decision regarding the offender. The parole or early release authority shall extend the right to be heard to any person harmed by the offender.
    (h) The right to be informed of clemency and expungement procedures, to provide information to the governor, the court, any clemency board, and other authority in these procedures, and to have that information considered before a clemency or expungement decision is made; and to be notified of such decision in advance of any release of the offender.
  7. The rights of the victim, as provided in subparagraph (6)a., subparagraph (6)b., or subparagraph (6)c., that apply to any first appearance proceeding are satisfied by a reasonable attempt by the appropriate agency to notify the victim and convey the victim’s views to the court.
  8. The right to the prompt return of the victim’s property when no longer needed as evidence in the case.
  9. The right to full and timely restitution in every case and from each convicted offender for all losses suffered, both directly and indirectly, by the victim as a result of the criminal conduct.
  10. The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay, and to a prompt and final conclusion of the case and any related post-judgment proceedings. (a) The state attorney may file a good faith demand for a speedy trial and the trial court shall hold a calendar call, with notice, within fifteen days of the filing demand, to schedule a trial to commence on a date at least five days but no more than sixty days after the date of the calendar call unless the trial judge enters an order with specific findings of fact justifying a trial date more than sixty days after the calendar call. (b) All state-level appeals and collateral attacks on any judgment must be complete within two years from the date of appeal in non-capital cases and within five years from the date of appeal in capital cases, unless a court enters an order with specific findings as to why the court was unable to comply with this subparagraph and the circumstances causing the delay. Each year, the chief judge of any district court of appeal or the chief justice of the supreme court shall report on a case-by-case basis to the speaker of the house of representatives and the president of the senate all cases where the court entered an order regarding inability to comply with this subparagraph. The legislature may enact legislation to implement this subparagraph.
  11. The right to be informed of these rights, and to be informed that victims can seek the advice of an attorney with respect to their rights. This information shall be made available to the general public and provided to all crime victims in the form of a card or by other means intended to effectively advise the victim of their rights under this section. (c) The victim, the retained attorney of the victim, a lawful representative of the victim, or the office of the state attorney upon request of the victim, may assert and seek enforcement of the rights enumerated in this section and any other right afforded to a victim by law in any trial or appellate court, or before any other authority with jurisdiction over the case, as a matter of right. The court or other authority with jurisdiction shall act promptly on such a request, affording a remedy by due course of law for the violation of any right. The reasons for any decision regarding the disposition of a victim’s right shall be clearly stated on the record. (d) The granting of the rights enumerated in this section to victims may not be construed to deny or impair any other rights possessed by victims. The provisions of this section apply throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes, are self-executing, and do not require implementing legislation. This section may not be construed to create any cause of action for damages against the state or a political subdivision of the state, or any officer, employee, or agent of the state or its political subdivisions. (e) As used in this section, a “victim” is a person who suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological, or financial harm as a result of the commission or attempted commission of a crime or delinquent act or against whom the crime or delinquent act is committed. The term “victim” includes the victim’s lawful representative, the parent or guardian of a minor, or the next of kin of a homicide victim, except upon a showing that the interest of such individual would be in actual or potential conflict with the interests of the victim. The term “victim” does not include the accused. The terms “crime” and “criminal” include delinquent acts and conduct.

HELPFUL NUMBERS
Homicide Bereavement Support Group Information 941.861.4942
Coastal Behavioral Healthcare – 24/7 Hotlines (Suicide and Emotional Crisis) 941.364.9355
United Way 2-1-1, 24/7 Crisis and Referral Hotline 2-1-1 OR 941.308.HELP
Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office 941.861.5800
Clerk of the Circuit Court 941.861.7400
Medical Examiner’s Office, District Twelve 941.361.6909
State Attorney’s Office 941.861.4400
Sarasota County Jail/Booking 941.861.4165

Local Center for Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence
SPARCC (Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center), 24/7 Hotline 941.365.1976

Local Victim Service Agencies
Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, Victim Assistance Unit 941.861.4942
State Attorney’s Office, Victim Rights’ Advisor 941.861.4400
Parents of Murdered Children (Local Representative) 941.952.0936

State and National Referrals
Florida Abuse Hotline (Elderly and Children) 1.800.962.2873 
Crimes Compensation (Attorney General) 1.800.226.6667
Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service 1.800.342.8060 
Identity Theft Hotline 1.866.966.7226
VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) 1.877.846.3435
Statewide Crime Victim Information and Referral 1.800.226.6667
Florida Council Against Sexual Violence 24/7 Hotline 1.800.956.7273
Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence 24/7 Hotline 1.800.500.1119
National Center for Victims of Crime 1.800.394.4357
National Organization for Victim Assistance 1.800.879.6682