Victim of Crime


1. Law enforcement has a duty to investigate crime and protect victimsFemale crime victim

Police have a responsibility to protect you from valid threats of crime, and investigate any valid reports of a crime. If they don’t, you may be able to sue the police or have the federal government prosecute the police for failing to do their duty, especially if due to discrimination.1This is called “Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law,” and is found in Title 18 of U.S. Code, Section 242

2. Victims’ Bill of Rights

If you are a victim of a crime under state or local law (which includes most crimes), your rights as a victim vary by state (see below for information on select states) ), but you will likely have most of the same rights listed here. If you are a victim of a crime under federal law or any crime committed in Washington, DC, you have the following rights:2Section 3771 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, Crimes and Criminal Procedure

  • Protection. The right to be reasonably protected from the accused
  • Notice. The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime, or if the accused has been released or has escaped
  • Attend hearings. The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court determines that your testimony would be influenced by things you may hear at the proceeding
  • Right to be heard. The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, or sentencing, or any parole proceeding
  • Confer with prosecution. The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the government in the case
  • Compensation. The right to full and timely return of any property stolen or compensation for damaged property if the specific law requires
  • Speedy proceedings. The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay
  • Respect. The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for your dignity and privacy.

Here are victims’ rights for state or local crimes in the following select states:

California (Law Soup’s guide to victim rights), Connecticut, OregonTexas, Maryland, New Jersey, New York

3. Definition of Victim (for federal crimes)

A crime victim for federal purposes means a person who has been directly harmed (physically, emotionally, or financially) by another person committing a federal crime or any crime in Washington, DC. If a crime victim is under 18 years old, mentally incompetent, or deceased, the victim’s legal guardians, representatives, family members, or any other person appointed by the court may assume the victim’s rights, as long as that person is not a defendant in the crime being investigated or prosecuted. Foreign citizens may be considered victims in some cases.

4. Hate crimes

You have the right to protection against “hate crimes” where an attacker uses (or attempts to use) a deadly weapon and the attack was motivated by your actual or perceived race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.3U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 249

5. Potential to sue perpetrator

Often the victim of a crime may also be able to sue the alleged perpetrator in civil court (as opposed to criminal court) and possibly get monetary compensation from the perpetrator. See a personal injury attorney for assistance.

6. Deadlines for prosecuting assailant

Though it varies by state and by type of crime, there are usually deadlines for prosecuting a person for committing a crime. These deadlines are called the “statute of limitations.” For example, in California, rape must be prosecuted within 10 years or the assailant will essentially get away with it. Here are the deadlines for prosecuting sex crimes in every state. Murder is one of the few crimes which never has a deadline for prosecuting.


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