Victims' Rights and Backlog Reduction Laws
The Right to be Informed
Perhaps the most fundamental right of a crime victim is the right to be kept informed by the criminal justice system. A number of states do afford victims, including victims of sexual assault, a general right to be informed that takes effect upon their initial contact with law enforcement. Such information includes: notice of the availability of crime victim compensation; referrals to victims’ services; the steps involved in a criminal prosecution; contact information for an individual within the criminal justice system; and notification of the victim’s rights, which is especially important because it is the right that enables crime victims to exercise all other rights.
However, many of the more specific rights to be informed of significant events and proceedings in the criminal justice process are not available to crime victims until after an arrest has been made or charges have been filed. The rights of sexual assault victims with sexual assault kits that are among the backlog of untested kits, will not be available to them until a perpetrator has been identified and an arrest has been made. With the exception of California, few states grant sexual assault victims the explicit right to be informed when their kits are going to be or have been tested, or of the results of that testing.
The following are examples of a victim’s right to notice that may apply as these cases begin to move forward through the criminal justice system:
Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §13-4405. Information provided to victim by law enforcement agencies.
F. If a suspect has not been arrested at the time of contact with the victim pursuant to subsection A of this section, the law enforcement agency that is responsible for investigating the offense shall notify the victim of the arrest of a suspect at the earliest opportunity after the arrest and of the time, place and date for the initial appearance.
Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §13-4405.01. Issuance and execution of arrest warrants.
E. The victim's right to be informed of an arrest or a release after a suspect is arrested pursuant to a warrant applies to warrants that are issued on or after September 1, 1996.
Colo. Rev. Stat. §24-4.1-303. Procedures for ensuring rights of victims of crimes
(IV) The law enforcement agency shall provide the victim in a cold case information concerning any change in the status of the case. In addition, upon the written request of the victim, the law enforcement agency shall provide an update at least annually to the victim concerning the status of a cold case involving one or more crimes for which the criminal statute of limitations is longer than three years.
(V) Any final decision not to file misdemeanor charges against a person accused of committing any crime specified in section 24-4.1-302 (1) against the victim unless law enforcement and the district attorney's office in a judicial district have developed a policy specifying the manner in which to inform victims of decisions not to file charges in a case.
725 Ill. Comp. Stat. 120/4-5. Procedures to implement the rights of crime victims.
§4.5. Procedures to implement the rights of crime victims. To afford crime victims their rights, law enforcement, prosecutors, judges and corrections will provide information, as appropriate of the following procedures:
(a-5) When law enforcement authorities re-open a closed case to resume investigating, they shall provide notice of the re-opening of the case, except where the State's Attorney determines that disclosure of such information would unreasonably interfere with the investigation.