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Victims' Rights and Backlog Reduction Laws


The Right to be Heard and to Participate in the Criminal Justice Process

Ensuring victims' the right to be heard is the primary means by which victims play a proactive role in the criminal justice process. In some instances, sexual assault victims whose sexual assault kits were not tested in a timely manner face the possibility that their cases will not be prosecuted—even when a perpetrator is identified—because the statute of limitations has already expired. Some states still give these victims an opportunity to participate by affording them the right to consult with key criminal justice officials before certain decisions are made, or the right to address or submit a written statement to the court or other authority at various proceedings in other cases, including parole hearings and at sentencing.

The following are examples of how sexual assault victims whose own cases have not been prosecuted may be given the opportunity to be heard and participate in the criminal justice process:

ALABAMA

Ala. Code §15-18-69. Objections.


At such restitution hearings
, the defendant, the victim, the district attorney, or other interested party may object to the imposition, amount or distribution of restitution or the manner or method thereof and the court shall allow all such objections to be heard and preserved as a matter of record. The court shall thereafter enter its order upon the record stating its findings and the underlying facts and circumstances thereof.

ALASKA

Alaska Admin. Code tit. 22, §20-095.


(a) Except as provided in this chapter, parole board hearings are closed to the public. Any person, group, or agency may submit written information to the board for consideration.

(b) The members and staff of the board, the prisoner/parolee, attorneys for the prisoner/parolee and for the state, department employees responsible for the case, and security staff deemed necessary by the board may attend board hearings.

(c) Upon written request, the board will, in its discretion, permit other government employees or other persons having a legitimate interest in a board hearing, to attend and observe a hearing. A request to attend a hearing must be made to the board before the hearing.

(d) The board will terminate the oral comments of a prisoner, a parolee, a victim, a witness, or an attorney if, in the opinion of the board those comments are irrelevant, repetitious, or argumentative. The board may establish time constraints for presentation of oral comments to the board.

(g) Parole board hearings may be conducted in person, telephonically, by electronic videoconferencing or teleconferencing, or through any combination of these formats. The board will give equal consideration to testimony or arguments presented at board hearings through any of these methods.

This project is supported by Grant No. 2011-TA-AX-K048 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this program are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.