By Dallas and Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy F. Rosenthal
Victim’s rights are governed in Texas by Code of Criminal Procedure Title 1, Chapter 56 which you can read here.
In summary, most of the victim’s rights surround the right to notice of certain events such as hearings in court and the right to be heard by the Judge in certain circumstances such as sentencing. The Texas legislature in 2009 passed new provisions allowing sexual assault victims the right to be examined by law enforcement agencies within certain time-frames of the offense alleged to have occurred.
Many victims feel as if only the criminal defendants have rights. This impression is not entirely true, as evidenced by the statute above, but the feeling is certainly understandable. The U.S. and Texas Constitutions are contracts between the citizens and the government. In all criminal actions, the government is essentially suing the criminal defendant which triggers the defendant’s rights under the constitution because the government owes the defendant due process under the ‘contract.’
When a crime is committed by one person against another person, the government is not the body violating the victim’s rights which is why it is technically improper to suggest “rights” have been violated. Obviously, a victim has been violated in a criminal situation whether it be loss of a friend or a loved one or the loss of one’s feeling of integrity and security — just not by the government.
It is always best to contact the police or a law enforcement agency if you or a loved one is the victim of a crime. Law enforcement is far better equipped to handle a dangerous or abusive situation. Additionally, the district attorney’s office can and does seek restitution on behalf of victims. Every so often, I’ll have a victim contact my office. Truthfully, as an attorney in private practice there is usually not much that our office can provide. On occasion we may be able to pursue civil remedies such as money judgments or even injunctions to try to stop certain behavior. The remedies we can pursue, though, are generally slower, less extensive, and are more financially costly.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice, you should contact an attorney directly.