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Victims have rights too

Sheriff’s Victim/Witness program reminds citizens of their rights during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

 


The Carbon County Sheriff’s Office Victim/Witness Program is reminding county residents of the program’s services to victims of crime during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

The week is an opportunity to remind citizens of their rights should they ever be in the unfortunate position of being the victim of a crime, said Loretta Hansen, the coordinator of the Victim/Witness program at the Carbon County Sheriff’s Department.

“It’s all about really bringing the community together, bringing awareness for the property damage and identity theft and all the things that we don’t have another special time to recognize,” Hansen said.

Current statutes that enumerate and protect crime victims’ and witness’ rights are a relatively new thing, she said, explaining much of what we understand as victims’ rights only became part of the law in the early 80s during the Reagan administration.

At that time, there was a recognition that crime victims were due compensation for loss to property, medical bills, lost work and other damages that resulted from criminal behavior.

In 1984, the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) was passed on a bipartisan basis by the legislature and signed into law by Reagan. The law established the victim’s compensation fund financed by penalties paid by those convicted of crimes in federal courts. The money is then distributed to victim compensation funds in the 50 states.

Many states, including Wyoming, have passed similar legislation to fund state-specific programs.

Hansen said she and her part-time staff member are on call 24/7 to help crime victims and witnesses. Often, police officers will call in a representative from the victim/witness program in certain cases. Other times, the prosecuting attorney’s office will refer crime victims to the office.

Victims are often due damage from criminal activity, Hansen said, adding that in some cases victims may be entitled to compensation even if there is no criminal conviction in the case.

The office and its staff also help victims by shepherding them through the legal process, ensuring they are apprised about the status of the case. If a person cannot or will not attend a court hearing or trial, Hansen said a representative of the office can do that for them. The program also makes sure that property belonging to victims that may be used as evidence by the police or prosecutor is returned to victims as soon as possible.

“It’s taking people from the time of incident through that court process,” Hansen said. “And making sure they’re informed and they get restitution and really important is making victim impact statements about how the crime affected them.”

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is April 2-8. Anyone who may need assistance can call the Carbon County Sheriff’s Department and ask for the Victim/Witness Program.

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