In a criminal matter there are two parties - the Commonwealth and the Defendant. A defendant, rightly so, has many constitutional protections and other statutory rights. The Commonwealth also has statutory and state constitutional rights. Although a Victim is not actually a party to a criminal action, they have rights in the criminal justice process, too.
The Crime Victim's Rights Act codifies the rights of a Victim. And, as importantly, defines who can be a "victim" under Virginia Law.
Virginia Code Section 19.2-11.01(B) says "victim" means: (i) a person who has suffered physical, psychological, or economic harm as a direct result of the commission of (a) a felony, (b) assault and battery in violation of § 18.2-57 or 18.2-57.2, stalking in violation of § 18.2-60.3, a violation of a protective order in violation of § 16.1-253.2 or 18.2-60.4, sexual battery in violation of § 18.2-67.4, attempted sexual battery in violation of § 18.2-67.5, or maiming or driving while intoxicated in violation of § 18.2-51.4 or 18.2-266, or (c) a delinquent act that would be a felony or a misdemeanor violation of any offense enumerated in clause (b) if committed by an adult; (ii) a spouse or child of such a person; (iii) a parent or legal guardian of such a person who is a minor; (iv) for the purposes of subdivision A 4 only, a current or former foster parent or other person who has or has had physical custody of such a person who is a minor, for six months or more or for the majority of the minor's life; or (v) a spouse, parent, sibling, or legal guardian of such a person who is physically or mentally incapacitated or was the victim of a homicide; however, "victim" does not mean a parent, child, spouse, sibling, or legal guardian who commits a felony or other enumerated criminal offense against a victim as defined in clause (i).
You can see that the definition is very broad.
Some rights a Victim has:
- the right to testify about the impact a crime has had on them personally
- the right to write a statement to the sentencing judge about the impact
- the right to attend all court hearings (see Virginia Code Section 40.1-28.7:2)
- the right to certain protections by law enforcement, including exclusion from the defendant at court proceedings
- the right to potential financial assistance if a claim is accepted by the Crime Victims' Compensation Fund
- the right to restitution and return of property held as evidence at the conclusion of criminal proceedings
- the right to be consulted regarding plea negotiations and disposition of the case
The list above sets forth many, but not every, right a Victim may have. A Victim of a crime may also have civil remedies. That is to say, a Victim may have the right to sue a person who has harmed them for negligence or an intentional tort.
A Victim may also have the right to Move to Quash a Subpoena Duces Tecum ("SDT"). An SDT issued in a criminal case by a party to the case (like the Defendant) may seek personal information from a Victim. The Commonwealth, for a variety of reasons may not Move to Quash (or get rid of) the SDT. That does not mean the Victim cannot make such a motion.
If you are the Victim of a crime in Fairfax County or elsewhere in Northern Virginia, and you would like to discuss your concerns, contact us today for a free consultation. (Remember: An attorney representing a Victim does not and cannot take the place of the Commonwealth's Attorney. However, a victim rights attorney can help you assert your rights and help protect your interests in the prosecution and outcome of a case.)