Victims of crime have rights that are provided for both under the Constitution and statutes of Ohio.
The Ohio constitution states that victims of crime are entitled to fairness, dignity and respect in the criminal justice system. Moreover, victims have the right to receive appropriate notice, information, access and protection and to play a meaningful role in the criminal justice process. This, however, does not include the right to appeal or modify a court's decision. It also does not include the right to any compensation.
The statutory rights of victims are outlined in a pamphlet published by the office of the Ohio Attorney General. It is entitled 'Picking Up the Pieces: Your Rights and Responsibilities as a Crime Victim', and can be accessed at the Attorney General's website: www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov. The following is a brief summary of these rights.
Right to Have Representation
A victim may appoint a family member or other representative to attend any court proceedings. This right is particularly important for elderly and juvenile victims.
Right to Have Information
The victim is entitled to information about how to reach the investigating authority and the prosecutor. The prosecutor must notify the victim of the name of the accused and the crime charged, the case number, the procedural steps and the victim's right to attend the proceedings and other important information. The victim is also entitled to know whether a person of interest has been arrested and to be given a way to check if that person is being released.
Right to Have Property Protected
If a victim's property has been seized, the victim has the right to have it safely kept and then returned when it is no longer needed as evidence.
Right to be Heard
The right of the victim to be heard is very important. The court or prosecutor must confer with the victim before a plea bargain, amendment, dismissal or trial. The judge should note on the record any know time this doesn't happen and the reason such as where the victim cannot be reached or does not wish to be heard.
Right to be Free From Intimidation
The victim has the right to be free from intimidation. The prosecutor can ask that the victim's name and information not be released. The victim can also ask for protection including an order that the defendant not be able to contact the victim. If a victim is being intimidated, he or she should immediately notify law enforcement so steps can be taken to protect the victim.
Right to Attend Proceedings
Except for grand jury proceedings, the victim has a right to attend all court proceedings except in the unusual situation that such attendance would compromise the defendant's right to a fair trial. The victim has the right to know the outcome of the case and the important right to be heard at the time of sentencing.
Right to Give Impact Statement
The victim of a crime in which the defendant harmed or attempted to harm the victim can give a victim impact statement. This can be done in writing or orally. The statement can include such matter as an explanation of any physical or psychological harm to the victim; an explanation of any harm to the victim's property; request for restitution for monetary harm; and a recommendation of the appropriate sanctions to be applied. The victim's statement is confidential and is not a public record.
Right Not to be Fired
The victim can't be fired for missing work to attend court proceedings. However, the employer does not have to pay for the work missed.
Continuing Right to Know
On request, the victim is to be informed of the sentence imposed and any motions for early release or appeals filed. The victim must be notified if the defendant escapes.
The Shaker Heights Municipal Court deals only with adult offenders. However, where an individual is victimized by a juvenile offender, the victim can file a civil action against the offender's parents for up to $15,000, for willful and wanton assault, damage to property and theft.
Special Rights for Rape Victims
The victim of rape has the right not to have his or her identity released to the media and also has the right to have the defendant tested for sexually transmitted diseases. The court will notify the victim of the test results.
Rights Upon the Defendant's Release
In certain felonies and serious misdemeanors particularly violent crimes, the victim has the right to know the address of a defendant released from custody. Also, in sexually oriented offenses, they may have the right to know when and where the defendant works and goes to school. There are certain offenses where the defendant must register with the sheriff of any place he will live, work, or attend school.
Domestic violence is generally defined as causing or attempting to cause, or threatening harm to people having a family or other special relationship with the accused. The victim of domestic violence has the right to have a protection order issued which can prohibit the defendant from returning to the home or otherwise having any contact with the victim.
Compensation Under the Victims of Crime Compensation Program
There are certain crimes defined in Ohio law for which the victims can receive compensation for their economic losses. In order to recover, the victim must report the crime to law enforcement within 72 hours and cooperate fully in the investigation and prosecution of the crime. The offender does not need to be caught or convicted for the victim to be eligible for compensation. The victim must file a claim within 2 years of the date of the crime. Minors have until their 20th birthday.
- Persons injured in violent crime or trying to stop a crime or apprehend a criminal
- A dependent of a deceased victim
- Person who has paid the expenses of the victim
- Person who is legally authorized to act for the victim
For more information, contact the Court of Claims by telephone at 800.824-8263 or on the Internet at www.ohiocourtofclaims.gov.