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Legal experts, victim advocates convene to share best practices in crime victims’ rights law

July 07, 2009

The National Crime Victim Law Institute (NCVLI), an organization focused on victims’ rights legal advocacy, education and resource sharing, held its annual conference on June 30-July 1. More than 150 people from 22 states and the District of Columbia attended the conference which looked at state and federal legal trends in crime victims’ rights and specific issues such as sexual and domestic violence, child pornography and identity theft.

The concept of rights for crime victims has gained considerable momentum across the United States in the last two decades. Federal and state laws now afford rights to victims of crime, including victims of crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assault, drunk driving, identity theft, robbery and homicide.

Among the states, Arizona is considered to have the most comprehensive and strongest crime victims’ rights provisions, while 17 states have no constitutional law for victims. Most states fall somewhere in the middle-laws on the books but a lack of clarity about how to enforce those rights.

Rights that are enforceable allow victims access to critical information and a voice in the criminal justice process: timely notification of  upcoming hearings and proceedings involving their case; the right to be present in the courtroom during proceedings; the right to confer with the prosecutor; the right to protection from the accused; the right to be  heard at proceedings that affect their rights, including the sentencing following the conviction of their offender; and the right to restitution.

Crime victim attorneys, prosecutors, and nonprofit victim advocates, heard from leading legal experts about best practices and defining cases that are setting new benchmarks in the field. Among the highlighted speakers was Paul Cassell, former federal judge and currently professor of law at University of Utah, who is considered the leading legal expert on victim rights in the federal judicial system. Lewis & Clark Law School Dean Robert Klonoff and Oregon Attorney General John Kroger opened the conference.

In this video, participants discuss the conference and why crime victims’ rights are an important component of our criminal justice system.