A victim is not required to have a lawyer and they should not have to; but the sad truth is that victims of domestic violence and other crimes can be re-victimized by the system. In a criminal case, the victim has a right to be heard but the victim’s wishes do not have to be followed. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it may be a good idea to have a lawyer represent you as a victim to ensure your voice is heard and not ignored, and also to protect you against any legal action. Sometimes victims may have unintentionally misrepresented the facts or later change their mind about having a loved one prosecuted. I have seen many cases where a victim calls the police to get help for a loved one who is mentally unstable, only later to find out that now that person is being prosecuted. There are ways to give the State formal notice that you do not want to prosecute. An attorney experienced in that respect will know how to do this properly without putting the victim or the defendant in jeopardy.
Florida Law Pertaining to Victim Rights
Constitution of the State of Florida
Article I, Section 16 – Rights of Accused and of Victims
Victims of crime or their lawful representatives, including the next of kin of homicide victims, are entitled to the right to be informed, to be present, and to be heard when relevant, at all crucial stages of criminal proceedings, to the extent that these rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.
Note: this statute is long and I urge you to read the statute for more detail. I have highlighted some important points of law from this statute to assist those looking for information.
Notification of Protection available
Notification of Release of the Accused
Upon request, the jail or commitment facility shall notify the victim or family member of the victim of the offender’s release from incarceration or detention, in advance of the release.
Consultation with the Victim or family of the victim with the State Attorney
When the crime is a felony involving physical or emotional injury or trauma, or if the victim is a minor child, the State Attorney must consult with the victim or the parent or guardian of the minor child, in order to obtain the views of the victim or family about what should happen to the defendant, including
- The release of the accused
- Plea agreements
- Participation in pretrial diversion programs; and
- Protections available
In certain cases, a victim may be entitled to compensation. People that qualify to be eligible for awards include
- A victim
- An intervenor
- A surviving spouse, parent or guardian, sibling, or child of a deceased victim or intervenor.
- Any other person who is dependent for his or her principal support upon a deceased victim or intervenor.