Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Victims are Not Told of their right to an Attorney, But Criminals are

There is something shocking happening every day in the California court system. If a victim of multiple rapes meets a District Attorney, she will never be told of her constitutional right to counsel. But if the defendant charged with those multiple rapes meets the same  District Attorney, the District Attorney will immediately tell him of his right to counsel.

Several years ago Marsy’s law passed and gave victims a constitutional right to an attorney (at their own expense).  A brand new case, People v. Smith, has just ruled that the California Constitution means what it says:

 Marsy's Law added several provisions relating to victim restitution to the California   Constitution. The victim has the right (1) to be notified of and to be present at all public proceedings, (2) to be heard at any proceeding, including the sentencing hearing, and (3) to receive restitution. (Cal. Const., art. I, § 28, subd. (b)(7), (8) & (13).) The victim has the right to "seek and secure restitution . . . ." (Cal. Const., art. I, § 28, subd. (b)(13)(A).) And "[a] victim, the retained attorney of a victim, a lawful representative of the victim, or the prosecuting attorney upon request of the victim, may enforce the rights enumerated in subdivision (b) in any trial or appellate court with jurisdiction over the case as a matter of right.
As a result of these provisions, [victim] Doe had a right to not only be notified of the restitution and to be present, but also to be heard. She was also entitled to have counsel represent her in being heard.

It is very sad that prosecutors give charged criminals better advice about their right to counsel than they give to victims.

I am not aware of any District Attorney’s office in the state who advises victims of their constitutional right to counsel.  If one visits the links to the Los Angeles, Orange County and San Francisco District Attorneys' pages on Marsy’s Law one will see that there is not one word about the right of a victim to an attorney:

    link to LA County DA on Marsy’s law   http://da.lacounty.gov/pdf/marsys_law.pdf

    link to Orange County DA on Marsy’s law

     Link to SF County DA on Marsy’s law:

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