Victims of crime in California and across the United States have a set of rights afforded to them. One of these important rights is to have a reasonable opportunity to confer with the prosecuting attorney. There are a number of facts and factors that need to be borne in mind when it comes to the right to reasonably confer with the prosecuting attorney in a case:
- Right to convey to the prosecuting attorney facts about the crime
- Right to confer with the prosecuting attorney when a plea agreement is being considered
- Right to confer with the prosecuting attorney in regard to sentencing
Convey Facts About Case
When it comes to the right of a criminal defendant to reasonably confer with a prosecuting attorney, that right may commence before an alleged perpetrator is charged with a crime. A victim of a crime has the right to convey facts and evidence about the conduct of an alleged perpetrator. A crime victim has the right to convey facts to the prosecutor and other investigators as he or she understands these facts.
Confer About Plea Agreement
The vast majority of criminal cases are resolved through plea agreements. Indeed, it is estimated that over 90 percent of criminal cases result in plea agreements between the prosecution and the defendant.
Because of the significant importance of a plea agreement in the vast majority of criminal cases, a victim of the crime being prosecuted generally has a right to confer with the prosecution about a plea agreement. There are some differences in regard to how this right is exercised from one jurisdiction to another.
More often than not in jurisdictions in California, prosecuting attorneys seek direct input from crime victims during the plea negotiation process. In some cases, prosecuting attorneys take the position that the victim in a case must agree to a proposed plea agreement before it is finalized.
There are occasions in which a crime victim objects to a plea agreement reached in a particular case. Thanks to the system of victim advocates that is now in place across California, and much of the United States as well, the victim in a particular case has an avenue to vent that objection to the court.
This is accomplished in one of two ways. First, the victim’s objection to a plea agreement can be included in the presentence report that is provided to the judge in advance of the sentencing hearing. Second, the victim may have an opportunity to present an objection to a plea agreement directly to the judge during a plea hearing. More often than not the objection will be included in the written presentence report provided to the judge.
Confer About Sentencing
Obviously, sentencing represents a major element of criminal proceedings in California and across the United States. As a consequence, the rights of victims of crimes are highly important at this juncture in criminal proceedings.
Crime victims have the right to reasonably confer with the prosecuting attorney in a number of different ways when it comes to the sentencing phase of a case. These include:
- Right to convey position and information to the prosecuting attorney about sentencing issues
- Right to be informed of proposed sentencing recommendations
- Right to be informed about any sentencing agreement between the prosecution and the defendant
- Right to be present at sentencing (and to discuss sentencing hearing with the prosecutor)
- Right to make a victim impact statement (and to discuss the making of such a statement with the prosecutor)
Confer About Parole Hearings
In many criminal cases when a person is sentenced to a term of incarceration, the defendant will need to appear before the parole board in order to earn a release before the absolute end of his or her criminal sentence. Yet another way in which a victim of crime has a right to confer with the prosecuting attorney and others is in regard to parole hearings. The reality is that in many cases the voices of crime victims are highly powerful when it comes to parole board proceedings. A crime victim is able to participate and confer in regard to parole hearings in a number of different ways.
First, a victim of crime typically has the opportunity to consult with the prosecuting attorney. The prosecuting attorney will be consulted by the parole members who will be involved in a particular parole board hearing. The prosecuting attorney certainly will want the victim’s position on the parole of an incarcerated person.
Second, a victim of a crime will also have the opportunity to confer with or present to the parole board as well. One way this occurs is a victim of a crime confers with a parole board member or members, or with the staff of the parole board, in advance of a parole hearing. Another way is the crime victim personally appearing before the parole board at the defendant’s hearing.