A highly important right of a crime victim is to be reasonably protected from the perpetrator or accused. The reality is that in the U.S. criminal justice system, a person charged with a crime nearly always has the right to post bail and avoid incarceration during the pendency of a prosecution. In addition, the vast majority of people charged and convicted with a crime will end up being released back into society if they do end up incarcerated.
When the Right To Protection From a Perpetrator of a Crime Exists
The right to be reasonably protected from the perpetrator of a crime commences at the time the victim reports a crime to law enforcement. The right to reasonable protection extends throughout an accused person’s prosecution, no matter how long this process takes.
If the criminal defendant is found guilty, the victim’s right to reasonable protection extends throughout the time period that the perpetrator is serving a sentence. This includes the period of time in which a perpetrator is incarcerated or on probation. The right to reasonable protection carries forth during the time period in which a criminal defendant is on parole or supervised release for a crime.
There are also cases in which the right to be reasonably protected from a perpetrator might extend even beyond the time a perpetrator has finished his or her sentence. If there is not a specific reason to extend particular protections to a crime victim once a sentence has been served, the victim of a crime is entitled to the same level or protection against crime available to any other members of the community.
Levels of Protection Afforded To Victims of Crime
The specific facts and circumstances associated with a crime, a perpetrator of a crime, and the crime victim govern the level or protection that need to be afforded a victim of crime. In other words, the type of protection afforded to a victim of a crime literally is determined on a case by case basis.
The most basic type of protection provided to a victim of a crime is the issuance by the court of a restraining order against the alleged perpetrator. For example, a restraining order might be issued against a person who is alleged to be stalking the victim.
A restraining order itself can contain different types and degrees of sanctions if it is violated by the alleged perpetrator. These can include everything from being held in contempt of court to being arrested and charged with yet another crime.
Another level of protection that can be afforded a victim of crime is ongoing surveillance. Ongoing surveillance comes in a number of different forms:
- Regular police patrol around a victim’s home or place of business
- Police officer stationed outside a victim’s home or place of business
- Surveillance of alleged perpetrator through the use of technology like a GPS tracking (ankle bracelet)
Yet another way in which a crime victim can be protected from a perpetrator is placement in a safe house. Safe house programs are most often geared towards women who are the victims of domestic violence as well as women who are victims of sexual assault.
In some cases, a victim of a crime can be placed in proactive custody to protect that individual from the perpetrator of a crime. Protective custody is most commonly utilized in situations in which a victim is in danger and is needed to testify at a trial of the alleged perpetrator of a crime.
Protective custody does not necessarily mean that a person will be “locked up” somewhere during the pendency of a case. Rather, a crime victim might be housed somewhere away from his or her home, a location like a hotel. The location is kept hidden.
The most significant type of protective situation for a victim of crime is witness protection. In basic terms, witness protection involves giving an individual a new identity, new home, new work – quite literally, a new life.
We do see witness protection used more frequently when a person is not necessarily a victim of crime but jeopardizes his or her safety by testifying against a notorious criminal. With that said, witness protection procedures can be used to provide comprehensive security for a victim of crime.
Costs Associated With Crime Victim Protection
A crime victim should not be saddled with the responsibility of protection. States and counties across the country maintain different types of programs that provide victims of crime financial assistance for losses and costs. These can include the costs associated with the protection of a victim of crime. An example of an organization that provides compensation to victims of crime is the California Victim Compensation Board.