I have covered many court cases and written about many types of arrests.
In this country we are adamant about a suspect’s or criminal’s rights, but a victim’s rights seem to be only a secondary thought.
Now, before I get too far into this subject let me say that I believe that under the law suspects should have their rights read to them and should be given a fair trial.
I am not advocating any change in criminal or suspect rights, what I am concerned about is the rights of those who are the victims of crimes.
A person who is arrested is guaranteed Miranda rights in the U.S. Constitution.
Other rights include: Writ of Habeas Corpus; no bill of attainder; no unreasonable search and seizure; no double jeopardy; no self-incrimination; the right to due process; and the right to a speedy and public trial.
The list of rights would more that fill up this page and several more pages.
With all that said, we seem to forget about victims.
Granted, there are victim advocates in most cases, but they are limited in what they can do. They do the best they can with what they have available.
Think about this: In Florida, victims of crime or their lawful representatives, including the next of kin of homicide victims, are entitled to the right to be informed, to be present, and to be heard when relevant, at all crucial stages of criminal proceedings, to the extent that these rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.
There is a compensation plan (Victim’s Compensation Trust Fund) available, paid for by the state in some cases.
When you compare these rights to those of people accused of a crime, well, need I say more?
Those are good and great, but as we protect the rights of the accused, we do little to protect the rights of victims.
I am a victim of several crimes.
Over the years I have had three vehicles stolen, been shot at when I lived in Carrollton, Georgia and had one major break-in where I lost $17,000 worth of merchandise.
In addition to several minor break-ins, last year I had someone try to break in my house while I was inside. I have had gas, a $1,000 camera and tools stolen.
I have some ground to stand on when it comes to the lack of real victim’s rights.
Add that to the criminal and court cases I’ve covered, and I feel I have a good perspective to voice my views.
It is discouraging to see that victims of a crime can also be victimized in a courtroom.
In the case of a violent crime they have to relive a horrible experience over again and then be questioned about their memory.
Victims are given no rights compared to suspects in court.
They are not guaranteed a speedy trial or representation by an attorney free of charge.
Most cases I’ve witnessed are two years old before they reach court.
People are still the victim if the court system fails to convict a guilty person because of a legal technicality, and double jeopardy is invoked.
They are still a victim if an investigation is flawed and it’s used to release the perpetrator.
I believe we have forgotten the reason that we have laws; that is to protect law-abiding citizens from those who would steal, rape, beat or murder us.
I believe we should give the accused the rights to assure they are tried fairly. But also allow those who are victims of crimes the same rights afforded the suspects.
It is a pie-in-the-sky idea, I understand, but at least those of us who have been victims of crime could have the satisfaction of knowing that our rights have not been left unnoticed.
If you are the victim of a crime, you do have some rights. Go to http://myfloridalegal.com/victims or talk to one of the victim advocates now available at the state attorney’s office or Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office.