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The Florida Bar

Victims Rights in the Criminal Justice System in Broward County

Florida was one of the first states to recognize the concept of victims’ rights, the notion that victims of a crime should be heard in the criminal justice system and their input taken into account, says Fort Lauderdale domestic violence lawyer William R. Moore. In some jurisdictions, a prosecutor will always attempt to speak with victims of a crime prior to making a plea offer to a defendant. Although the victim is not a party to the proceeding — it is the state versus the person accused of the crime — the Florida criminal justice system tends to value the views of victims.

In some cases, victim contact is more valuable to the state than others. For example, domestic violence cases tend to have difficult victim issues. In some instances, the individual listed by the responding law enforcement agency was not the person who even called the police, and had no desire for law enforcement to become involved in the conflict. In other cases, because the victim decides he or she does not want to sever the relationship or for other reasons, the victim does not wish for the state to prosecute the alleged offense. Either way, the state sometimes moves forward with prosecuting cases without a victim-witness if the state attorney deems the prosecution appropriate even in light of the lack of cooperation. The state attorney’s office also employs victim advocates who may counsel domestic violence or other victims regarding resources available to them and other matters, notes Broward criminal attorney William R. Moore.

Victims can also be corporations, which is usually seen in theft or property crimes cases. For instance, if the defendant is accused of stealing an iPod from a chain store, the state attorney’s office may contact the assets protection unit to determine if the business has a preference regarding sentencing or if the corporation simply wanted to recover the merchandise.

Victims’ (or alleged victims’) cooperation is not always essential for the state to prosecute a case, and the notion that a victim “presses charges” is not entirely correct in the sense that they are not the ones who elect whether to prosecute the case or not. Nonetheless, they are involved in the justice system, and the prosecutors and courts make an effort for their voices to be heard. Some victims may just seek restitution, while others will be upset and want the defendant to go to jail. Still others may seek a compromise in which the defendant would attend anger management or domestic violence classes — each case is different.

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