KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

VICTIMS OF CRIME

Crime Victims Rights Law - Arkansas law (Act 873 and Arkansas Victim Rights Law/Act 1262)

The Arkansas Crime Victim Rights Law became effective on January 1, 1998. This law mandates certain basic rights for people victimized by crime. The law does not apply to all crimes, but only certain crimes and certain victims, including:

  • a victim who is a minor

  • a victim of a sex offense

  • a victim of any felony resulting in physical injury to the victim

  • a victim of any felony involving the use of a deadly weapon

  • a victim of terroristic threatening in the first degree

  • a victim of stalking

 

If the victim is a minor, incapacitated, or deceased, a member of the victim’s family may exercise the rights of the victim.

Victim Information – The Crime Victim Rights Law protects information about victims. A court cannot compel a victim to give his or her address or place of employment in open court, except when the court decides it is essential to the case. Law enforcement agencies cannot disclose information to the public about the identity of the victim of a sex crime except under limited circumstances. The address and telephone number of the victim is also protected from release under the Freedom of Information Act.

When property of the victim is seized and used as evidence, the agency holding the property must take reasonable care of the property and promptly return it to the victim when it is no longer needed as evidence.

Employers cannot discharge or discipline a victim of crime for assisting the prosecutor in preparing the case or for attending court if it reasonably necessary to protect the victim’s interest.

Information from Law Enforcement – Law enforcement agencies responding to crime incidents are required to inform victims in writing of their rights under this law. Officers must inform victims of the availability of services such as medical, housing, counseling, financial, social, legal, and emergency services. In addition, officers must inform victims about how to obtain orders of protection, how to access public records related to the case, and about the Arkansas Crime Victims Reparations Board (including the address and phone number).  As soon as it becomes practical, law enforcement officials must also inform the victim of the suspect’s identity and custody status (in custody, escaped, transferred, released and the conditions of release, etc), unless this information compromises the investigation. Victims also have the right to know the case file number, the investigating officer’s name, office address, and telephone number, and the prosecuting attorney’s name, office address, and telephone number.

Pre-sentence Report – A pre-sentence report is a detailed account of a convicted defendant’s educational, criminal, family, and social background conducted as an aid to the court in determining the sentence. The person preparing the pre-sentence report for the court shall make a reasonable effort to confer with the victim.

Presence in Court – Victims of crime have the right to be present in court whenever the defendant appears, other than at a grand jury proceeding. If the victim requests, the court shall also allow the presence of a person to provide support for the victim in the courtroom. However, if the court decides that the victim’s presence or the presence of the support person may jeopardize the defendant’s right to a fair trial, the court can exclude either or both of them.

Information from Prosecuting Attorney – If requested by a victim, prosecuting attorneys are responsible for notifying crime victims of critical events occurring in their cases. This notification can be given orally, in writing, or automatically through the Arkansas VINE system. Victims are responsible for giving the prosecutor’s office their address and phone number, and for updating this information if it changes.

Upon request of a victim or the victim’s family, prosecutors are to notify victims of the following:

  • Information on relevant criminal justice procedures

  • Information about the crime with which the defendant has been charged

  • The file number of the case, the prosecuting attorney’s name, and office address and phone number

  • Motions or hearings to establish or reduce bail or authorize pre-trial release from custody

  • Proceedings on plea agreements

  • Date, time, and place of defendant’s trial

  • Motions that may substantially delay prosecution

  • Cancellation of court proceedings

  • Pre-sentence report function and the defendant’s access to the report

  • Victim impact statement information

  • Information on all sentencing proceedings

  • Notice of sentence imposed or modifications to that sentence

  • Reconsideration hearings of an imposed sentence

  • Date, time, and place of the defendant’s appearance before a judicial officer

  • Information from custody institutions

 

Prosecuting attorneys should confer with the victim of the crime before amending or dismissing a charge or agreeing to a negotiated plea. However, failure of the prosecuting attorney to confer with the victim does not affect the validity of an agreement.

Prosecuting Attorneys or Victim Assistance Coordinators should provide the following services to victims:

  • Assistance in obtaining protection from harm and threats of harm arising out of their cooperation with law enforcement and prosecution efforts

  • Assistance in applying for financial aid and other social services

  • Assistance in applying for witness fees

  • When possible, a secure waiting area during court proceedings that does not require victims to be in close proximity to the defendant and family and friends of the defendant

  • Involvement with the victims’ employers to ensure that they cooperate with the criminal justice process in order to minimize loss of pay and other benefits resulting from court appearances

 

Information Concerning Appeal – If the defendant appeals, or seeks post-conviction remedies, the Attorney General should inform the victim of that fact, of the date, time, and place of any hearing, and of the decision. These notifications may be accomplished through the Arkansas VINE system.

 

Information Concerning Confinement – In order to receive information from custody institutions, victims must request that they be notified. The Crime Victim Rights Law requires the Arkansas Department of Correction, the Arkansas State Hospital, and any other facility to which the defendant is committed to notify victims of the following:

  • Estimated date of the defendant’s release

  • Date of Release of the defendant on furlough or to a work-release, half-way house, or other community program at least 30 days in advance of the release

  • Escape

  • Recapture from escape

  • Decision of the Governor to commute the sentence or to pardon the defendant

  • Release of defendant and any conditions attached to the release of the defendant

  • Death of the defendant during confinement

 

Information from the Parole Board – At least 30 days before a hearing, if requested by the victim, the Board shall inform the victim of the hearing and of the victim’s right to submit a Victim Impact Statement. The Board shall also inform the victim of their decision concerning the defendant. The law requires the Board to consider the Victim Impact Statement before determining whether to release the defendant on parole.

The victim can choose to present the statement orally at the parole hearing or in writing. Because defendants may become eligible for parole every year, under certain circumstances victims may offer impact testimony via videotape. The Board is required by law to provide the defendant with copies of the victim’s written impact statement.

It is the responsibility of the victim, or his or her next of kin, to notify the Board of any change in regard to the desire to be notified of any future parole hearings, or change in address or telephone number.

Victim Impact Statements

 

The Arkansas Crime Victim Rights Law guarantees the right for victims of crime to prepare and present a Victim Impact Statement. The law also requires the court to consider the victim’s statement. Impact statements are presented in the sentencing phase of trials and in Parole Board hearings.

 

Victim Impact Statement forms may be provided for both adult and child victims, as well as for the parents of child victims. Victims may wish to use them as an example for drafting their own, but are in no way required to use these forms. If a parent chooses to allow their child to participate, the impact statement allows the child to tell the court in his or her own words, or by drawing a picture, how this crime has changed his or her life.

 

The Victim Impact Statement allows a victim to provide information on the following:

  • Emotional, psychological, physical, and financial impacts of the crime

  • Effect of the crime on his or her ability to work or do any of the things he or she would normally do, such as going to work or school, running a household, or any other activities he or she would normally perform

  • Circumstances surrounding the crime

  • Manner in which the crime was perpetrated

 

When describing the financial impact of the crime, it is important to be as clear, complete, and accurate as possible. The prosecutor, the probation officer, and the judge will rely on the information provided. Information regarding financial impact may prove useful in the judge’s decision to order payment of restitution. Restitution is the possibility of monetary payments made by the defendant to the victim in order to compensate the victim for financial losses resulting from the crime. Even if restitution is ordered, there is no guarantee the defendant will pay the entire amount. Victims may also be eligible for financial assistance from the Crime Victims Reparations Board. (See the Crime Victims Reparations Board section of this guide).

 

Oral statements may be presented with agreement of the prosecuting attorney. This statement can be very useful to the judge in determining the proper sentence to impose. A victim may NOT, however, include his or her opinion of the defendant, or of the sentence that should be imposed. Submission of a Victim Impact Statement is voluntary.

 

A written Victim Impact Statement may be useful if a plea is taken and/or the victim is unable to appear in court. The statement may also assist the prosecutor and victim witness coordinator in the preparation of actual victim testimony for trial. Only evidence or argument concerning a victim’s personal characteristics or the impact of the crime on the victim’s family and community are allowed.

 

The Victim Impact Statement, once submitted, will become an official court document and part of the permanent file. The defendant and the defendant’s attorney have access to the victim’s statement. Victims’ addresses and telephone numbers do NOT appear on these documents and are protected from Freedom of Information Act requests.

Victim's Information - Arkansas Department of Public Safety