Summary of Victims’ Rights

The California Victims’ Bill of Rights, also known as Marsy’s Law, was enacted by voters on November 4, 2008. This measure amended the California Constitution to provide additional rights to victims. (Cal. Const., Article 1, section 28 (a)-(e).) The Victims’ Bill of Rights provides crime victims with the following rights, as summarized below:

  • To be treated with fairness and respect for his or her privacy and dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse, throughout the criminal or juvenile justice process.
  • To be reasonably protected from the defendant and persons acting on behalf of the defendant.
  • To have the safety of the victim and the victim’s family considered in fixing the amount of bail and release conditions for the defendant.
  • To prevent the disclosure of confidential information or records to the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant, which could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family or which disclose confidential communications made in the course of medical or counseling treatment, or which are otherwise privileged or confidential by law.
  • To refuse an interview, deposition, or discovery request by the defendant, the defendant’s attorney, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant, and to set reasonable conditions on the conduct of any such interview to which the victim consents.
  • To reasonable notice of and to reasonably confer with the prosecuting agency, upon request, regarding, the arrest of the defendant if known by the prosecutor, the charges filed, the determination whether to extradite the defendant, and, upon request, to be notified of an informed before any pretrial disposition of the cease.
  • To reasonable notice of all public proceedings, including delinquency proceedings, upon request, at which the defendant and the prosecutor are entitled to be present and of all parole or other post-conviction release proceedings, and to be present at all such proceedings.
  • To be heard, upon request, at any proceeding, including any delinquency proceeding, involving a post-arrest release decision, plea, sentencing, post-conviction release decision, or any proceeding in which a right of the victim is at issue.
  • To a speedy trial and a prompt and final conclusion of the case and any related post-judgment proceedings.
  • To provide information to probation department official conducting a pre-sentence investigation concerning the impact of the offense on the victim and the victim’s family and any sentencing recommendations before the sentencing of the defendant.
  • To receive, upon request, the pre-sentence report when available to the defendant, except for those portions made confidential by law.
  • To be informed, upon request, of the conviction, sentence, place and time of incarceration, or other disposition of the defendant, the scheduled release date of the defendant, and the release of or the escape by the defendant from custody.
  • To 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 seek and secure restitution from the persons convicted of the crimes causing the losses they suffer.
    • Restitution shall be ordered from the convicted wrongdoer in every case, regardless of the sentence or disposition imposed, in which a crime victim suffers a loss.
    • If monetary payments, monies, and property collected from any person who has been ordered to make restitution shall be first applied to pay the amounts ordered as restitution to the victim.
  • To the prompt return of property when no longer needed as evidence.
  • To be informed of all parole procedures, to participate in the parole process, to provide information to the parole authority to be considered before the parole of the offender, and to be notified, upon request, of the parole or other release of the offender.
  • To have the safety of the victim, the victim’s family, and the general public considered before any parole or other post-judgment release decision is made.


Rights for Domestic Violence Victims

Domestic violence is abuse perpetrated against any of the following persons:

  • A spouse or former spouse
  • A cohabitant or former cohabitant
  • A person with whom the respondent is having or has had a dating or engagement relationship
  • A person with whom the respondent has had a child, where the presumption applies that the male parent is the father of the child of the female parent under the Uniform Parentage Act (Part 3 (commencing with section 7600) of Division 12)
  • A child of a party or a child who is the subject of an action under the Uniform Parentage Act, where the presumption applies that the male parent is the father of the child to be protected
  • Any other person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree

Abuse means any of the following:

  • Intentionally or recklessly to cause or attempt to cause bodily injury
  • Sexual assault
  • To place a person in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury to that person or to another
  • To engage in any behavior that has been or could be enjoined pursuant to Family Code section 6320

Laws specifically governing domestic violence provide the following rights:

  • Expanded definitions of domestic violence to protect former spouses and cohabitants
  • Authorization of law enforcement to take temporary custody of any firearm at the scene of domestic violence
  • The right to have law enforcement agencies prepare written reports for all domestic violence calls
  • The right to have law enforcement serve the offender with a restraining order at the scene of a domestic violence incident or anytime the offender is in custody
  • Address confidentiality for victims of domestic violence and stalking programs (administered by the Secretary of State’s office)
  • Right to have a support person in court throughout appearance including mediation
  • Right to have a domestic violence counselor and support person present at interviews with law enforcement, prosecutors, or defense attorneys
  • Right to be heard at bail reduction hearings
  • Prohibits an employer from discharging, discriminating, or retaliating against a victim of domestic violence who takes time off to appear in court, attend counseling, make shelter arrangements, or undertake procedures for his or her safety
  • Prohibits an inmate convicted of stalking to be released within 35 miles of the victim’s residence or place of employment
  • Right to learn the current custody status of defendants prior to conviction
  • Right to notification of release or escape from prison/jail after conviction, upon request
  • Requires a legal presumption that giving custody to a perpetrator of domestic violence is detrimental to a child


Rights for Sexual Assault Victims

It is important to know and understand that any sexual assault is a crime. Sexual assault by a person who is known to the victim as an acquaintance, date, friend, spouse or family member are all crimes and should be reported immediately to law enforcement. Sexual assault victims should immediately notify law enforcement of potential crimes and advise if they are injured or in need of medical treatment.

Laws specifically governing sexual assault provide the following rights to victims:

  • Right to ask questions of the police, nurses and attorneys
  • Right to be treated with respect
  • Right to have a victim advocate present for any contacts related to the case
  • Right of a sexual assault victim not to be charged for the cost of medical examination for the purpose of gathering evidence
  • Requirement of hospitals to use proper rape investigation protocols when examining sexual assault victims
  • Right to free pregnancy and venereal disease test for sexual assault victims at county hospitals
  • Right to receive victim assistance information regarding state compensation to sexual assault victims at county hospitals
  • Right to have crisis center notified before medical examination
  • Right to have sexual assault victim counselor and support person present during examination
  • Right to have a victim advocate accompany the victim to the witness stand during court hearings
  • Right to be anonymous throughout the court proceedings
  • Prohibits law enforcement from disclosing sexual assault victim’s name and address
  • Right to learn custody status of the defendant prior to conviction
  • Right to notification of release or escape from prison or jail after conviction, upon request

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