Victim-Witness Assistance Program
Nilda Fernandez, Program Coordinator
Main Office: 3501 Civic Center Drive, Room 130
San Rafael, CA 94903
Telephone: (415) 473-6450
In California the victims of crime have state constitutional standing and rights. California is one of the leading states in the country guaranteeing that the victims of crime will be heard. It is important for each of you to know your rights and to insist upon them. A brief summary of the major points are discussed below.
CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA
ARTICLE I, SECTION 28
The People of the State of California find and declare that the enactment of comprehensive provisions and laws ensuring a bill of rights for victims of crime, including safeguards in the criminal justice system to fully protect those rights, is a matter of grave statewide concern. The rights of victims pervade the criminal justice system, encompassing not only the right to restitution from the wrongdoers for financial losses suffered as a result of criminal acts, but also the more basic expectation that persons who commit felonious acts causing injury to innocent victims will be appropriately detained in custody, tried by the courts, and sufficiently punished so that the public safety is protected and encouraged as a goal of highest importance. Such public safety extends to public primary, elementary, junior high, and senior high school campuses, where students and staff have the right to be same and secure in their persons. To accomplish these goals, broad reforms in the procedural treatment of accused persons and the disposition and sentencing of convicted persons are necessary and proper as deterrents to criminal behavior and to serious disruption of people's lives.
Restitution. It is the unequivocal intention of the People of the State of California that all persons who suffer losses as a result of criminal activity shall have the right to restitution from the persons convicted of the crimes for losses they suffer. Restitution shall be ordered from the convicted persons in every case, regardless of the sentence or disposition imposed, in which a crime victim suffers a loss, unless compelling and extraordinary reasons exist to the contrary. The Legislature shall adopt provisions to implement this section during the calendar year following adoption of this section.
Right to Safe Schools. All students and staff of public primary, elementary, junior high and senior high schools have the inalienable right to attend campuses which are safe, secure and peaceful.
Right to Truth-in-Evidence. Except as provided by statute hereafter enacted by a two-thirds vote of the membership in each house of the Legislature, relevant evidence shall not be excluded in any criminal proceeding, including pretrial and post conviction motions and hearings, or in any trial or hearing of a juvenile for a criminal offenses, whether heard in juvenile or adult court. Nothing in this section shall affect any existing statutory rule of evidence relating to privilege or hearsay, or Evidence Code, Sections 352, 782 or 1103. Nothing in this section shall affect any existing statutory or constitutional right of the press
Public Safety Bail. A person may be released on bail by sufficient sureties, except for capital crimes when the facts are evident or the presumption great. Excessive bail may not be required. In setting, reducing or denying bail, the judge or magistrate shall take into consideration the protection of the public, the seriousness of the offenses charged, the previous criminal record of the defendant, and the probability of his or her appearing at the trial or hearing of the case. Public safety shall be the primary consideration.
A person may be released on his or her own recognizance in the court's discretion, subject to the same factors considered in setting bail. However, a person charged with the commission of any serious felony shall be released on his or her own recognizance.
Before any person arrested for a serious felony may be released on bail, a hearing may be held before the magistrate or judge, and the prosecuting attorney shall be given notice and reasonable opportunity to be heard on the matter. When a judge or magistrate grants or denies bail or release on a person's own recognizance, the reasons for that decision shall be stated in the record and included in the court's minutes.
Use of Prior Convictions. Any prior felony conviction of any person in any criminal proceeding, whether adult or juvenile, shall subsequently be used without limitation for purposes of impeachment or enhancement of sentence in any criminal proceeding. When a prior felony conviction is an element of any felony offense, it shall be proved to the trier of fact in open court.
As used in this article, the term "serious felony" is any crime defined in Penal Code, Section 1192.7(c).
ARTICLE I, SECTION 25
A person who is a victim of crime shall be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect, and shall be informed of the rights accorded under this Section. As defined by law, a victim of crime shall have the right to reasonable notice and to be present and heard during all critical stages of preconviction and post conviction proceedings; the right to be informed upon the release from custody or the escape of the accused or the offender; the right to confer with the prosecution prior to final disposition of the case; the right to refuse to be interviewed by the accused or a representative of the accused; the right to review and comment upon the presentence report prior to imposition of sentence; the right to seek restitution; and the right to a reasonably prompt conclusion of the case. The legislature shall enact laws to implement this Section. The evidentiary and procedural laws of this state shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with this Section.
Nothing in this Section shall inure to the benefit of an accused
or to confer upon any person the right to appeal or seek supervisory review
of any judicial decision made in a criminal proceeding. Nothing in this Section
shall be the basis for an award of costs or attorney fees, for the appointment
of counsel for a victim, or for any cause of action for compensation or damages
against the state of California, a political subdivision, a public agency, or
a court, or any officer, employee, or agent thereof. Remedies to enforce the
rights enumerated in this Section shall be provided by law.
California voters in June 1982 enacted a constitutional "Victims' Bill of Rights" that includes a right not only to restitution from the wrongdoers for financial losses suffered as a result of criminal acts, but also a right for victims to be heard in criminal justice proceedings. Here are some of the highlights of victim's rights
Right to keep address confidential. In cases of child abuse, spousal abuse and sex crimes, and victims have a right to have their addresses kept confidential. Their addresses may be given only to the attorney for the defendant, but will not appear on any forms or public documents.
Right not to be threatened or intimidated. If anyone threatens you, call your law enforcement agency to report the threat and contact the prosecutor immediately. It is a crime for anyone to attempt to dissuade or prevent you from assisting law enforcement agencies or prosecutors or from attending or giving testimony at any trial or proceeding authorized by law. It is a felony if any such efforts involve coercion, threats or force, or are done for financial gain
Right to attend and speak at sentencing hearing. Crime victims are entitled to appear at the sentencing hearing and to speak on matters concerning the crime, the penalty and the need for restitution. You do not need to be present at the sentencing proceeding, but you have a right to attend if you wish and to reasonably express your views. The law requires that the county probation department notify you of the sentencing hearing for felony cases. Practically speaking, you will want to contact the prosecuting district attorney to let him or her know of your wish to speak at the sentencing hearing. You have a right to be informed of the sentence recommended by the probation officer to the court, but you may not view the actual probation report prior to sentencing. However, the Penal Code Section 1203.05(a) permits you to inspect the probation report within 60 days after the judgment is pronounced. You may want to write out a statement that you can read at the hearing or submit it in writing. You also may want to consider submitting a videotape. Those who have spoken at such hearings say they were given a restored sense of control and appreciated the active role in the criminal justice system.
Right to attend and speak at parole hearings. Victims have a right to make a statement at parole hearings. Parole hearings are held for prisoners serving an indeterminate term such as 15 years to life. . You may want to write out a statement that you can read at the hearing or submit it in writing. You also may want to consider submitting a videotape. Those who have spoken at such hearings say they were given a restored sense of control and appreciated the active role in the criminal justice system.
To be notified of parole hearings and to make a statement, you must send a written request to:
Board of Prison Terms
Victims' Assistance Program
428 J Street, Sixth Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
If the offender was sentenced by the California Youth Authority, you must send your written request to:
California Youth Authority
Office of Prevention and Victims' Services
4241 Williamsborough Drive
Sacramento, CA 95823
Restitution and return of property. Victims have a right to restitution from the person who is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony where the victim suffered economic loss a result of the offender's conduct. The prosecuting attorney has an opportunity to assist in these assessments. The requirements are specified in Penal Code section 1202.4(b). If seeking the return of property, you may want to contact your local victim/witness assistance center for help in determining if your property can be returned to you. In some cases, it may take a while to have the property returned because they may be needed as evidence in court.
Your Marin County Victim Advocates can explain in more detail the items summarized above. Each advocate has years of experience and training to assist you in a very difficult and emotionally draining process. To better serve your needs the District Attorney is currently positioning four regional sites in Marin to provide easier access to a Victim Advocate. For now your Victim Advocates are located in the Civic Center in the District Attorney's Office in San Rafael. If the advocate normally assigned to your case is not available and you need immediate assistance be sure to ask for the Advocate of the Day.
The County Family, Community Partnerships and Collaborations
Victims of crime shall be given first priority, their needs must be the first met. We have a number of partners in the community who share the vision of helping those victimized. Our intent is to put them back in their homes and lives, restored to full self-esteem, confident in their own personal safety and secure in knowing that the person who victimized them will not return to repeat their victimization.
This is only a partial listing of community based organizations with which the District Attorney's Office has established links to serve victims of crime in our community.
- Jeannette Prandi Children's Center
- County of Marin, Department of Health and Human Services - Child Protective Services
- County of Marin, Department of Health and Human Services - Adult Protective Services
- Community Violence Solutions (Marin Rape Crisis Center)
- Marin Abused Women's Services
- Domestic Violence Coordinating Council
- Child Advocates of Marin
- Marin County Schools and Law Enforcement Partnership
- Marin County Roundtable on the Prevention of Hate Violence
- Family Services Agency
- Canal Community Alliance
- Sexual Assault Response Team
The Marin County District Attorney will also work with partners in the community on restorative justice measures. For those individuals who do not pose a danger to our community and who want help, these individuals will be given opportunities such as the Adult and Juvenile Drug Court programs or the Mental Health Court program to address often long term, deeply ingrained patterns of substance abuse and duel diagnosis issues.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) Office of Victim Services
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