Frequently Asked Questions
Who is a crime victim?
A crime victim is a person who has been harmed by a crime committed by another person. If the crime victim is under 18 years old, passed away, incapacitated or incompetent, family members, legal guardians, or estate representatives may also be considered victims. For example, a surviving spouse of a homicide victim may be considered a crime victim under the law.
What are my rights as a crime victim if I report to the police?
In DC, a crime victim is entitled to specific legal rights that commence with the investigation of the crime, allow for participation in the criminal case beyond being a witness, and permit legal representation when speaking with prosecutors and defense attorneys. These rights enable victims of crime to have an independent voice that can be represented throughout the criminal case.
Under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, a crime victim has the following rights during criminal cases against their offender:
- The right to be protected from the accused
- The right to be informed of any public court proceeding involving the crime committed against them
- The right to attend any public court proceeding involving the crime committed
- The right to be notified if the accused person has been released or escaped
- The right to discuss the case with the prosecuting attorney representing the Government
- The right to restitution and to be notified of the right to restitution
- The right to have court actions take place within a reasonable time frame
- The right to be treated with fairness, respect, and the right to privacy
- The right to be notified of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement in the case
- The right to be informed of the rights under this section and the services described in section 503(c) of the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 10607(c)) and provided contact information for the Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice
DC’s Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights (§ 23-1901) also provides “that officers or employees of the District of Columbia engaged in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of the crime or judicial process shall make their best efforts to see that victims of crime are accorded their rights.”
A crime victims’ rights attorney would be able to explain how these rights apply to your specific case.
Am I a crime victim even if I have not talked to the police?
YES. You may still need services to help you with the effects of the crime you experienced. Crimes can be of all different types and can be both violent and non-violent. You may be a victim of a violent crime, such as stalking, domestic violence, abuse, homicide, assault, robbery, or a non-violent crime, such as theft, arson, fraud, or identity theft. You do not need to report to the police in order to receive assistance for any other needs you may have.
How can I get help besides calling the police?
Even if you do not call the police, you can still access other crisis services throughout DC if you have immediate needs. You may review a list of useful services here.
For legal issues, you may contact VLNDC by completing a form here to see if we can assist you. Below are some of the other legal needs you may want to speak to an attorney about:
Are there self-help legal resources in DC?
In DC there are many types of self-help legal clinics and resource centers where you can speak to an attorney about your legal issue on a one-time basis. LawHelp.org maintains an up to date calendar of these clinics here.