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Victim's Rights in California -

       Victim's rights cover several different levels of assistance and protection for victims of criminal conduct. Assistance is available to different people depending on the circumstances.

Good Samaritan Program

       This program is administered by the State of California under the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (VCGCB). The can offer some compensation to Good Samaritansfor their damages suffered. A Good Samaritan is someone who attempts to prevent a crime, arrest a suspect or rescue a person in danger. Should the Good Samaritan die as a result of their attempts, then the family is entitled to some form of compensation for their loss. The maximum claim is $10,000. The application for compensation can be found at the web site: http://www.boc.ca.gov/victims/goodsam.aspx.

Victim Compensation Program

       This program is also run by the VCGCB and offers assistance to those victims of violent crimes who have incurred losses as a result of the crime. This may involve medical expenses, funeral expenses, wage loss, counseling services, and possible costs for relocation expenses. Depending on the situation, some people can get an emergency award from the program. Other local resources are listed at the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board web site.

Restitution Recovery Program

       This Restitution Recovery Program is also administered by the state. Under the law, a victim has a right to ask for restitution from the defendant in the criminal proceedings. The preferred method is to let the prosecuting attorney know, prior to sentencing, what your losses are. Also,give the same information to the probation department. You have the right to ask the court to order the defendant to pay for your losses, which the court refers to as restitution. In most cases, the judge will order full restitution, absent some unusual circumstances.
If the perpetrator is a juvenile, you are still entitled to the same restitution. The main difference is that the court may also make the parents liable for the amount of restitution.

       If the court orders restitution, the amount of restitution is the equivalent of a money judgment under Penal Code §1214(b). This amount is probably not subject to discharge in bankruptcy should the defendant attempt to discharge the debt.

Victim Witness Assistance

       One common concern among victims is that they want someone to assist them not only in getting restitution but to also explain the legal system to them. When do they have to be in court? When is trial? What happens to the defendant? Do I have to testify? When do I testify? Will the defendant be in the court when I testify? Each county is California has developed a Victim Witness Center to assist these victim/witness individuals and will explain the procedures to them. The phone number for each Assistance Center in each county is located at the following web site:

Other Assistance

       Proposition 8, the Victims' Bill of Rights, was enacted in 1982. This law was designed to offer greater rights and better protection to victims of crime. Proposition 9 (Marsy's Law), another initiative passed by the voters in November, 2008, was an attempt to expand those rights. It was an attempt to make certain victim's rights part of the constitution. According to the State Attorney General, it would accomplish the following:

  • Require notification to victim and opportunity for input during phases of criminal justice process, including bail, pleas, sentencing and parole.
  • Establish victim safety as consideration in determining bail or release on parole.
  • Increase the number of people permitted to attend and testify on behalf of victims at parole hearings.
  • Reduce the number of parole hearings to which prisoners are entitled.
  • Require that victims receive written notification of their constitutional rights.
  • Establish timelines and procedures concerning parole revocation hearings.

       In addition, it would require restitution is all cases and give a priority to restitution whenever there was a collection of fines, fees and restitution.

- Written by , Attorney at Law





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