Many crimes are reported in the newspapers and on TV every day and their rights are always protected. But do you ever hear about the rights of the crime victim? That’s not important news to them but it’s very important to you if you are the victim.
Federal law says that if you are the crime victim you must be notified by local law enforcement about your rights as a victim, including the right to be compensated for your losses. The much more important task for the police and sheriffs personal is the investigation of the crime and putting the perpetrator in jail. With their limited resources and tremendous work load it’s no wonder that victims are often not notified about their rights and not followed up on helping victims get those rights enforced.
Victim Compensation is available in every state. A percentage of the “Court Cost” charged every criminal by the court is set aside to fund the cost of compensation to the victims. This fund is mandated by the federal government and administered by the States. This fund also pays for notification of victims at time of the trial that the victim has a right to attend, notice if the perpetrator is released from jail, and cover all of the expenses of local law officials in regard to victims’ rights.
Not enough people are aware of the help available to them. In Florida crime victims have 28 pages of rights yet you so often hear “the criminals have all the rights”. The difference is criminals have everyone from the States Attorney to their own defense attorney, which may be appointed and paid for by the State, to other public entities telling them what their rights are. There are not as many people available to tell you, the victim, what your rights are, and not enough people willing to let the victims know where to get help and to find out what their rights are!
I’d like to change that. Crimes covered are hit and run, domestic violence, D.U.I., assault, and more. Help is available for medical, dental, counseling, lost wages, out of pocket expenses, burial, and more.
The criteria is:
1. report to law enforcement within 24 hours of the incident
2. cooperate with law enforcement and prosecutors
3. have had no part in the crime
4. have never been convicted of a forcible felony
There is a special $500 fund for those 60 or older and/or disabled that allows these victims to recoup property damaged or stolen that would alter their day to day living.
If you have been a crime victim within the past two years and have questions or if you might qualify for victim compensation you have several options:
1. contact your local sheriff’s office or police dept.
2. contact Florida’s Victim Compensation directly at 850-414-3300
3. contact The Center for Victim Rights at 352-628-6481
4. call 1-800-FYI-CALL (national center for victims of crime)
This is a FREE service and NATIONWIDE!
Center for Victim Rights
Cynthia Holden, Independent Victim Advocate
Lecanto, FL 34461