Victims Rights in Florida

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For years, crime victims did not have a real right in criminal cases. Victims had to sit back and had no individual power to do anything but be a passive spectator. That has now changed. Article One Section 16 of the Florida Constitution and recent amendments have given victims numerous rights.

One of the most important rights victims received is the right to have a lawyer represent them during the criminal prosecution against the defendants in their cases. Article 1 Section 16 (11) allows victims to enforce their rights through the courts. The following lays out a summary of victims’ rights in criminal cases and how a victim’s rights attorney can help them enforce these rights.

  • Victims have a right to be treated with fairness, respect, and dignity. Victims should not be yelled at by defense lawyers, prosecutors, or judges, and should be treated fairly in a court of law.
  • Victims have a right to be free from abuse, threats, and intimidation. If a victim feels like a criminal defense attorney is harassing him or her to fill out a drop charge affidavit, he or she can hire a victim’s rights attorney who can step in and stop the criminal defense lawyer from attempting to pressure him or her from signing a declination or drop charge affidavit. Alternatively, if the victim wants to drop charges but the prosecutor is using threats to convince the victim to go forward with the prosecution against their wishes, a victim’s rights lawyer can step in and vigorously argue to the prosecutor to stop forcing the victim to proceed with the prosecution.
  • Victims have a right to be protected from the accused and anyone acting on their behalf. In many cases, criminal defense lawyers will try to question victims before court or depositions. A victim’s rights attorney can stop the defendant’s lawyer from questioning a victim without a subpoena and even file a motion in court to have the judge stop the behavior. Of course, if the defendant subpoenas a victim for a deposition, the victim must attend and answer questions subject to the evidence code.
  • The victim and his or her family have a right to be safe when bail is set for the defendant. A victim’s rights lawyer can ask the judge to set a higher bond, no bail, or ask for drug or abuse counseling as a condition to the defendant’s release.
  • The victim can prevent disclosure of records that can be used to harass them.

Additionally, victims may request more specific rights. The key is that they are not entitled to them unless they make a request. A victim’s rights lawyer can file pleadings in court that can get the victim the following additional rights:

a. The victim has a right to be noticed and be present at all public court dates involving the accused including pleas, sentencing, and trial. The victim can also be present as a witness at the proceeding. The victim has a right to be told if the defendant has been released from custody or has escaped.

b. The victim has a right to talk to the judge or prosecutor at any public court date of the accused where the right of the victim is implicated. Since many victims do not want to speak in public, they can have a lawyer stand up for them and make the victim’s wishes be heard.

c. The victim has a right to voice his or her opinion and tell the court and prosecutor what he or she believes is an appropriate sentence or if he or she wants the charges dropped. In many cases, victims can work with lawyers to advise the government and the court that they want the accused sentenced to jail or given counseling and to repay restitution. They can also hire a lawyer to advise the prosecutor that they want the charges dropped and that they do not want anything to happen to the defendant from the legal process.

In some cases, victims have educated reasons why they do not want prosecution pushed. The victim may feel that there could be legitimate economic and other viable personal issues where they do not want the State of Florida to proceed on his or her behalf.

d. The victim has the right to give information about how the defendant’s criminal act impacted the victim and his or her family. The victim is often called upon to give an impact statement. A lawyer can prepare his or her impact statement and produce it to the court. The victim’s attorney can read the statement to the court if the victim is too shy or does not want to get up in front of the judge.

e. The victim can receive a copy of any presentence investigation report of the defendant. This is great because the victim can perhaps understand the defendant’s criminal history and reasons why the person committed the crime.

f. The victim has a right to know about what sentence the defendant receives and any appeals or post-conviction proceedings the defendant is pursuing

g. The victim has the right to know about any expungement or clemency procedures. For example, many defendants try to expunge their record or seek clemency from the governor. A victim’s rights lawyer can file an objection to the clemency or expunction and voice opposition to the relief the defendant is seeking.

h. The victim has a right to get his or her property back once the criminal case is over. Often, the police will seize property to use as evidence against the defendant. A victim’s rights lawyer can motion the court for the return of property once the case is over.

i. The victim has a right to get restitution in a criminal case. A victim’s rights lawyer may be able to sue the defendant for lost wages, medical expenses, counseling, and other damages.

j. The victim may also have a right to move the court for a speedy trial. In the past cases would take forever to get prosecuted. Now, a victim can ask the court to push the case ahead. A victim’s rights lawyer can ask the prosecutor to file a motion for a speedy trial on his or her behalf.

Orlando Victim’s Rights Lawyer on Your Side

Former Orlando City Prosecutor and State Attorney William Umansky has represented crime victims for over two decades. He completed his Victim Service designation from the Office of the Attorney General and is a certified Victim Services Practioner.

William Umansky has also sued criminal defendants for injuring victims of Drunk Driving, Sexual Assault, Rape, Battery, Theft, Fraud, and other crimes. As a criminal defense attorney, Mr. Umansky has a unique perspective on how both sides work in the criminal process. If you hire him, he will understand what the prosecutor and the criminal defense lawyer are trying to accomplish. He will look solely after your rights and stand up for you, so you do not have to go through the process alone.

Armed with the Constitution, Attorney Umansky can enforce your rights in the criminal case and make sure that your wishes are made clear to the judge, prosecutor, criminal defense lawyer, and the defendant. Call the Umansky Law firm at 407-228-3838 or complete this contact form if you want him to stand by your side.