From the Bench: Victims' rights in Minnesota state court
Crime victims have rights. It is the law in Minnesota.
Chapter 611A of the Minnesota Statutes is entitled "Crime Victims: Rights, Programs, Agencies." The first provisions were enacted by the state Legislature in 1983. In the intervening years, this chapter has been expanded and revised. The provisions of Minn. Stat. 611A address victims of both adult and juvenile offenders.
A crime victim may be "heard" at multiple stages of a criminal prosecution. Crime victims have the right to be advised by prosecutors (the attorneys for the state) of a plea agreement and to voice objection at the plea hearing. Crime victims have the right to be heard at sentencing hearings.
Sometimes the victim presents his or her comments in writing, sometimes in person and sometimes through the comments of the prosecutor.
The crime victim is typically contacted as well by probation officers in the course of completing a pre-sentence investigation report for the court before the sentencing hearing. In addition, a crime victim may seek restitution for monetary damages or losses due to the defendant's criminal conduct.
If an offender is sent to jail or prison, a crime victim may request notification of the offender's upcoming release.
Many prosecutors have victim/witness staff in their offices. Victim advocates routinely attend court proceedings to monitor the progress of cases and communicate with crime victims.
The state Legislature established a crime victims reparation board. This board provides compensation to crime victims for economic loss when the crime victim suffers personal injury or a person is injured when engaged in a "good faith effort" to prevent a crime or to apprehend a person suspected of having committed a crime.
The person seeking reparation must apply to the board and then a determination is made as to whether the applicant qualifies and how much reparation is reasonable. Frequently, the reparation board will seek restitution from the offender for money paid out to the victim.
In addition, to direct crime victim services and programs, mediation and restorative justice programs may be established to create alternative options for victims to resolve issues with offenders. Restorative justice programs have been successful in many communities.
Crime victims and offenders meet with criminal justice professionals and discuss the impact of the crime on the victim. The goal is to reduce recidivism and prevent further victimization. This has had profound personal impact on many offenders and victims.
The state of Minnesota has been a leader in the recognition of victims' rights over the past 25 years. If you are a crime victim, know your rights.
The Honorable Ann L. Carrott is a Seventh District Court Judge chambered in Douglas County.