Rights Violations
Overview Complaints & Enforcement

HistoryNot long ago victims of crime had few rights in the criminal justice system and had no voice.  Often, victims only participated in the process because they were witnesses or evidence in the case.  There has been enormous progress, but we have much more to do to make crime victims’ rights more meaningful and less symbolic.

Today, every state has laws protecting and relating to victims/survivors of crime and a majority of states have amended their state constitutions to guarantee these legal protections.  This is important because constitutional rights provide enforcement remedies for violations of victims’ rights. However, there is much more work to do to increase awareness & accountability and to ensure that support and assistance is available to educate, advocate, and enforce crime victims’ rights.

For support and assistance Contact Us.

Victims' Rights OmbudsmanThe federal government created a Victims’ Rights Ombudsman program to help victims of federal crimes.  They receive and try to resolve victims’ rights complaints.  Some states are implementing similar programs.  More states are implementing Crime Victims’ Rights Resource Centers and Legal Clinics to help improve victims’ rights education, advocacy, and enforcement efforts.  Texas is among the victims’ rights enforcement leaders providing standing to victims of crime to enforce their constitutional rights, but there remains limited awareness and accountability.

Victims' Rights EnforcementCrime Victims’ Rights Enforcement is the next step towards fulfilling the promises made to victims/survivors of crime.  In most jurisdictions, crime victims’ rights have been on the books for decades.  It is time to treat these rights as legal protections and to make them more meaningful and less symbolic. This can be done by increasing awareness and accountability. Crime Victims First is on the forefront of crime victims’ rights education, advocacy, and enforcement in Texas. See Mandatory Action Steps for filing rights violation complaints in Texas. For more information on the national level visit the National Crime Victims Law Institute and join the National Alliance of Victims’ Rights Attorneys.

Legal Services

What are Motions to Enforce Rights?

Filing motions is one strategy to enforce rights violations. Motions are typically filed by attorneys, but in some jurisdictions crime victims have standing and can file motions Pro Se (Self-Represented).

What is a Writ of Mandamus?

Mandamus is a judicial remedy which is in the form of an order from a superior court to any government subordinate court, corporation or public authority to do or forbear from doing some specific act which that body is obliged under law to do or refrain from doing, as the case may be, and which is in the nature of public duty and in certain cases of a statutory duty. It cannot be issued to compel an authority to do something against statutory provision (Wikipedia, 2010).

Mandamus may be a command to do an administrative action or not to take a particular action, and it is supplemented by legal rights. In the American legal system it must be a judicially enforceable and legally protected right before one suffering a grievance can ask for a mandamus. A person can be said to be aggrieved only when he is denied a legal right by someone who has a legal duty to do something and abstains from doing it (Wikipedia, 2010).

Law Suits vs. Strategic Litigation

In Texas, no public official can be held liable for not affording crime victims’ rights. At this time, CV1 does not support filing law suits against any public official for an alleged rights violation. This is not an option. CV1 is aware of two such law suits in Texas and both were appropriately dismissed. In fact, a primary focus of CV1 is to prevent these types of law suits and experience shows that the majority of complaints can be resolved voluntarily by providing information, support, and assistance. However, CV1 does support holding public officials accountable when appropriate and voluntary action steps fail. CV1 would encourage filing motions to enforce individual crime victims’ rights violations as a next step is the enforcement process, and as a last resort or when appropriate, CV1 supports the use of strategic litigation. Strategic litigation in the context that a third party (i.e. a Judge) might have to intervene and make a decision to resolve the matter.

CV1 is working with the Stewart Law Firm and the University of Texas School of Law Pro Bono program to implement our Crime Victims’ Rights Legal Clinic. CV1 is working to recruit, train, and create a network of pro bono attorneys to provide these types of legal services to crime victims. There are 13 similar clinics across the United States that are more advanced and the majority of their work involves providing direct legal advice and representation to crime victims during criminal trials to ensure their rights are afforded and protected.

For support and assistance Contact Us.

Mandatory Action Steps

These are suggestions you can consider when you feel your rights have been violated in Texas.  For more information in other states visit Office for Victims of Crime or the National Crime Victim Law Institute

Mandatory Action Steps

Existing Complaint Options – Texas:

Administrative

Criminal Complaints – Against Public Servants

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