- Crimes Covered by the Victim Rights Act
- Critical Stages
- The Victim Rights Act
- Agency Responsibilities
- The Process for Insuring Your Rights
We are sorry to learn you have been a victim of a crime. As a victim, you may have experienced injury, loss, confusion, and a disruption of your life. Feelings of shock, disbelief, fear, vulnerability, anger and frustration may result. Having information and an understanding about the system may be helpful to you at this time.
Once a crime is reported, a person who is a victim of crime becomes part of the criminal justice system. It can be a confusing and sometimes frustrating experience. There are victim/witness advocates throughout Colorado to provide support and assistance to victims during the process. This section has been prepared to assist you in understanding your rights and to answer commonly asked questions. Because victims are such an important part of the criminal justice process, in November, 1992, the voters of Colorado passed a resolution to include Victim Rights as part of the State’s constitution.
The law states:
Any person who is a victim of a criminal act or such person’s designee, legal guardian, or surviving immediate family members if such person is deceased, shall have the right to be heard when relevant, informed and present at all critical stages of the criminal justice process.
(Article II, Section 16A Colorado State Constitution and C.R.S. § 24-4.1-301 et. seq.)
Crimes Covered by the Victim Rights Act
The Constitution of the State of Colorado and the laws of the state C.R.S. § 24-4.1-302 (1) guarantee certain rights to the victims of the following criminal acts:
- Murder – 1st and 2nd Degree
- Criminally negligent homicide and vehicular homicide
- Assault – 1st, 2nd, 3rd degree, vehicular assault
- Kidnapping – 1st and 2nd degree
- Sexual Assault – all
- Robbery – aggravated, aggravated of a controlled substance
- Incest and aggravated incest
- Child abuse
- Sexual exploitation of children
- Crimes against at-risk adults or at-risk juveniles
- Crimes for which the underlying foundation has been determined to be domestic violence
- Careless driving that results in the death of another person
- Failure to stop at the scene of an accident that results in the death of another person
- Ethnic intimidation
- Retaliation against a victim or witness
- Tampering with a victim or witness
- Any criminal attempt, conspiracy, criminal solicitation, or accessory involving any of the crimes specified above.
- Intimidation of a Victim or a Witness
- Indecent Exposure
- Violation of a Protection Order
- Trafficking in Adults
- Trafficking in Children
- First Degree Burglary
- Retaliation Against a Judge
- Retaliation Against a Juror
If the victim is deceased or incapacitated, these rights may be exercised by the victim’s spouse, parent, child, sibling, grandparent, significant other, or other lawful representative.
A victim’s rights in the process are related to certain “critical stages” in the criminal justice process, these stages include:
- The filing of charges
- The preliminary hearing
- *Any bond reduction or modification hearing
- Arraignment hearing
- Motions hearing concerning pre-plea relief or post-plea relief or evidentiary matters
- *Disposition of the complaint or charges against the person accused
- The trial
- *Sentencing hearing
- Appellate review or appellate decision
- *Sentence modification
- Probation revocation hearing
- The filing of a complaint, summons, or warrant by probation for failure to report or because location of a person convicted of a crime in unknown
- Request for change of venue or transfer of probation supervision
- Request for release from probation supervision prior to the expiration of original sentence
- Attack of a judgment or conviction
- Parole application hearing
- Parole, release, or discharge from imprisonment of a person convicted of a crime
- Parole revocation hearing
- Transfer to or placement of a person convicted of a crime in a non-secured facility
- Transfer, release, or escape of a person charged with or convicted of a crime from any state hospital.
- Filing of Charges or the Decision not to File Charges (at beginning)
- Any Petition by a Sex Offender to Terminate Sex Offender Registration (at end)
- Post Conviction DNA Testing for Purposes of Establishing Innocence
* In addition to the right to be informed and present, the victim also has a right to be heard at hearings on bond reduction, disposition of the case, such as acceptance of a negotiated plea, and a sentencing, including modification of sentence. The victim also has a right to provide input to the court regarding continuances.
The Victim Rights Act
The original Victim Rights Act became effective in January, 1993 after the law was signed by Governor Romer. The Victim Rights Act was most recently amended in 2012. The Victim Rights Act provides victims an active role in the criminal justice process in an attempt to balance the scales of justice. The following is a summary of the rights guaranteed by the Victim Rights Act (For a complete listing of your rights, please refer to Colorado Revised Statutes § 24-4.1-301 through § 24-4.1-304.)
- To be treated with fairness, respect and dignity
- To be informed of and present for all “critical stages” of the criminal justice process
- To be free from intimidation, harassment, or abuse, and the right to be informed about what steps can be taken if there is any intimidation or harassment by a person accused or convicted of the crime or anyone acting on the person’s behalf
- To be present and heard regarding bond reduction, acceptance of plea negotiations, case disposition, sentencing, or modification of sentence
- To consult with the district attorney prior to any disposition of the case or before the case goes to trial and to be informed of the final disposition of the case
- To be informed of the status of the case and any scheduling changes or cancellations, if known in advance
- To prepare a Victim Impact Statement and to be present and/or heard at sentencing
- To have restitution ordered and to be informed of the right to pursue a civil judgment against the person convicted of the crime
- To a prompt return of the victim’s property when no longer needed as evidence
- To be informed of the availability of financial assistance and community services
- To be given appropriate employer intercession services regarding court appearances and meetings with criminal justice officials
- To be assured that in any criminal proceeding the court, the prosecutor, and other law enforcement officials will take appropriate action to achieve a swift and fair resolution of the proceedings
- Whenever practicable, to have a safe, secure waiting area during court proceedings
- Upon request, to be informed when a person accused or convicted of the crime is released from custody, is paroled, escapes or absconds from probation or parole
- Upon written request, to be informed of and heard at any reconsideration of sentence, parole hearing, or commutation of sentence
- Upon written request, to be informed when a person convicted of a crime against the victim is placed in or transferred to a less secure correctional facility or program or is permanently or conditionally transferred or released from any state hospital
- To view all or a portion of the presentence report of the probation department at the discretion of the District Attorney
- To be informed of the results of any court-ordered HIV testing
- To be informed of any rights which the victim has pursuant to the Constitution of the United States or the State of Colorado
- To be informed of the process for enforcing compliance with the Victim Rights Act
Additional rights and services are provided to child victims or witnesses. Law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges are encouraged to designate one or more individuals to try to assure the child and their family understand the legal proceedings and have support and assistance to deal with the emotional impact of the crime and the subsequent criminal proceedings.
Criminal Justice agencies have certain responsibilities for assuring that victims receive their rights.
District Attorney Responsibilities
District Attorneys should:
- Inform the victim of the filing of charges and provide an explanation of the charges
- Inform the victim of appropriate critical stages and the date, time and place of all critical stages in the court proceedings;
- Inform the victim of the deputy district attorney handling the case and the court to which the case is assigned;
- Inform the victim of any pending motion that may substantially delay the prosecution and inform the court of the victim’s position on the motion;
- Inform the victim of the availability of any benefits and/or transportation to and from court; and
- Inform the victim of any scheduling changes or cancellations, if such changes or cancellations are known in advance.
In addition, the District Attorney shall:
- Consult, where practicable, with the victim concerning the reduction of charges, negotiated pleas, dismissal or other dispositions;
- Minimize contact between the victim and defendant before, during, and immediately after a judicial proceeding;
- Facilitate prompt return of a victim’s property when it is no longer needed for evidentiary reasons;
- Provide the victim with a victim impact statement that is given to the Court;
- Inform the victim of the function of a presentence report and the name and telephone number of the probation office preparing the report, as well as the defendant’s right to view the presentence report and victim impact statement;
- Explain the victim’s right to attend and express an opinion at the sentencing hearing;
- Inform the victim of any hearing for reconsideration or modification of a sentence and;
- Provide information from correctional officials concerning the imprisonment and release of a person convicted of a crime.
Law Enforcement Responsibilities
Law Enforcement agencies have the responsibility to provide the victim with written information about:
- Community services such as crisis intervention services, victim assistance resources, legal resources, mental health services, financial services and other support services.
- The availability of financial resources such as victim compensation and how to apply for those benefits.
- The availability of protective court orders in order to obtain protection from the person accused of committing the crime.
- The availability of public records related to the case.
- Status of the case, prior to the filing of charges.
- The availability of translation services, assistance in dealing with creditors due to financial setbacks caused by the crime, child care to enable a victim to cooperate with the prosecution.
In addition, law enforcement agencies are responsible to:
- Provide the victim with the business address and telephone number of the district attorney’s office, file number of the case and the name, business address and telephone number of any law enforcement officer assigned to investigate the case.
- Keep the victim informed as to whether a suspect has been taken into custody and, if known, whether the suspect has been released from custody and any conditions imposed upon the suspect.
The Process for Insuring Your Rights
What to do if you feel your rights have not been provided:
Colorado state law provides that affected persons may enforce compliance with the provisions of the Constitutional Amendment by notifying the Governor’s Victims’ Compensation and Assistance Coordinating Committee (Coordinating Committee).
You must first attempt to seek compliance at the local level. This may include but is not limited to:
- Contacting the person you feel has not provided you with your rights and explain specifically what has not been done;
- Seeking assistance from your victim advocates, or other supportive persons such as a counselor;
- Seeking assistance from the elected official or head of the agency you feel is not providing your rights.
Contacts may be verbal or in writing. Accurate records of your efforts to seek compliance at the local level will be helpful to you and to the Coordinating Committee should a formal request be filed.
If all local efforts to obtain your rights have failed, you may request assistance from the Coordinating Committee by contacting:
Crime Victim Services Advisory Board
Division of Criminal Justice
Office for Victims’ Programs
700 Kipling Street, Suite 1000
Denver, Colorado 80215
(303) 239-5743 FAX
1-888-282-1080 Toll-Free Number (Outside the Denver Metro area only)
The Governor’s Victims’ Compensation and Assistance Coordinating Committee
The Governor’s Victims’ Compensation and Assistance Coordinating Committee is an eighteen member committee appointed by the Governor. The Committee has statewide representation and its members include representatives from law enforcement and district attorney’s offices, as well as legislators, victims of crime, and members of the community.
The Coordinating Committee has been designated to review any reports of non-compliance with the Victim Rights Act. The Coordinating Committee reviews reports on non-compliance and determines if there is a basis in fact to the report.
The Coordinating Committee has designated a Victim Rights Act Subcommittee, which meets on a regular basis, to review all formal complaints of non-compliance with the Victim Rights Act.
The Division of Criminal Justice (DCJ) provides staff assistance to the Coordinating Committee and the Victim Rights Act Subcommittee. Reports of non-compliance are reviewed by the Division of Criminal Justice staff who attempt to resolve issues as early as possible in the process.
The staff at the Division of Criminal Justice will talk to you about your concerns regarding non-compliance with the Victim Rights Act. Following that discussion, the staff will contact the agency identified in the complaint. It should be noted that the vast majority of complaints are able to be resolved by DCJ at the local level through informal mediation and intervention.
Some complaints, however, cannot be resolved informally and proceed to the formal complaint process.
The Formal Complaint Process
- A copy of the complaint will be reviewed by the DCJ staff and the Victim Rights Act Subcommittee to determine if the complaint is within the purview of the Victim Rights Act.
- If the complaint falls within the purview of the Victim Rights Act, a copy of the complaint and all information accompanying that complaint will be sent to the agency(ies).
- The agency’s response is provided to the complainant, who has an opportunity to provide any additional or clarifying information.
- All the information from both the complainant and the identified agency is reviewed by the Victim Rights Act Subcommittee to determine if there is a basis in fact for a Victim Rights Violation.
- If there is NOT a basis in fact, the case is closed at that time.
- If there IS a basis in fact, the Subcommittee sets forth requirements of the agency in violation. These requirements are designed to improve a current problem and to alleviate similar concerns within the system on behalf of future victims.
- The victim is kept informed of the outcome of the Subcommittee’s meetings and the progress the agency makes in fulfilling the requirements.
- Either party has a right to request an appeal of the decisions or findings of the Victim Rights Act Subcommittee to the Coordinating Committee.
- If an agency is unwilling or unable to fulfill the requirements, the case is referred to the Governor’s office. The Governor then refers the case to the Attorney General to file a civil law suit to enforce compliance.
Victims of crime often need financial assistance as a result of what happened to them. Financial help for costs related to medical expenses, lost employment, mental health treatment, burial expenses, the loss of medically necessary devices such as eyeglasses or hearing aids, the loss of support to dependents, and damage to home security devices such as doors, windows, and locks can be applied for through the Crime Victim Compensation Fund. Money is paid into this fund through fines against persons convicted of crimes. Contact your local District Attorney’s Office for information on how to apply for Victim Compensation.
Your local community has resources to provide you with support and assistance. A good place to start is with your victim advocate located at either the police department or sheriff’s office, the district attorney’s office, or a community service provider. Other statewide resources include:
- Asian Pacific Development Center – Services for Asian populations: 303-355-0710
- Colorado Anti Violence Program – Services for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Population: 303-852-5094
- Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence – CCADV: 303-831-9632
- Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault – CCASA: 303-861-7033
- Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance – COVA: 303-861-1160
- Colorado Division of Criminal Justice: 303-239-4442
- Domestic Violence Initiative for Women with Disabilities: 303-859-5510
- Justice Information Center – Immigration Services – interpreting, translation, community resource referrals: 303-832-1220
- Kempe National Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect: 303-864-5252
- Native American Counseling Services: 303-692-0054
- Parents of Murdered Children and other survivors of homicide: 303-772-6004