Attorneys on Victim’s Rights in Florida
The victim of a crime typically does NOT need their own attorney because the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office is capable of seeking justice in the case.
But in many cases, the victim might decide to hire their own attorney to represent their interest as the case proceeds through the criminal justice system.
Keep in mind that the prosecutor with the State Attorney’s Office represents the State of Florida. The prosecutor’s client is the State, not the alleged victim.
The main reason that the victim might hire their own attorney is that the victim is owed money damages as a result of the criminal act and the person who committed the crime has the ability to pay the restitution owed.
In those cases, the victim might also hire an attorney to file a civil lawsuit to recover damages against the accused or any third party that caused or contributed to the damages.
An attorney can help the victim do any of the following:
- opt-in for the benefits provided by Marsy’s Law (Article 1, Section 16 of the Florida Constitution);
- apply for benefits from the crimes compensation fund;
- provide the information needed for an award of restitution in the criminal case; or
- file a civil lawsuit for money damages against the person accused of committing the crime.
Attorney for Crime Victims in Florida
The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm understand that the criminal justice process can be overwhelming and confusing. We can help ensure that your needs are met and rights are protected at every stage of the case.
When we represent the victim in a crime, our attorneys charge an hourly rate of $400 an hour. The best way to understand your options is to schedule a one-hour consultation with an attorney to discuss your rights and what you can expect from the process.
During the consultation, we can help you understand your right to compensation from the Victim Crime Compensation fund and your right to submit a Victim Impact Statement describing how the crime affected you and your family.
Most importantly, if the person who committed the crime owes you restitution and has the ability to pay it, then an attorney can help you understand any options to receive compensation through money damages.
We can also help you make sure your property is returned as quickly as possible unless there is compelling law enforcement need to retain it.
When appropriate, the attorneys at Sammis Law Firm can help you obtain restitution for loss of property and income, seek reimbursement for medical expenses incurred as a result of the offense, or receive information on how to enforce the court’s order of restitution.
Our attorneys can accompany you if you must testify during a deposition, at a hearing, or at trial.
Call 813-250-0500 for more information.
Helping Victims of Crime in the Civil Legal System
In addition to receiving justice through the criminal justice system, the victim might also obtain justice through the civil legal system for the following types of cases:
- when the perpetrator of a sexual assault or sexual molestation has the financial ability to pay money damages;
- when the business owner or building owner provides inadequate security;
- a drunk-driving crash;
- a dram shop violation by a business that sold alcohol before the drunk-driving crash;
- negligent hiring;
- nursing home abuse; or
- financial fraud or other white collar crimes.
Florida Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights
In addition to Marsy’s Law (Article 1, Section 16 of the Florida Constitution), other provisions of Florida law give the alleged victim certain rights as the case proceeds through the criminal justice system. These provisions relate to the victim’s right to be heard and to be informed.
For example, Florida Statute Section 960.001 sets out guidelines for the fair treatment of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems.
The statute requires the state attorney’s office and other agencies to provide information to victims and notify them about certain actions taken in the case.
The Florida Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights provides:
“[v]ictims 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.”
Read more about Amendment 6, Florida’s version of Marsy’s Law which removes the language that victims’ rights exist “to the extent that these rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused” that had previously been contained in Art. I, § 16(b), Fla. Const.
Can the Victim or Prosecutor File a Demand for a Speedy Trial?
In 2008, the Florida Legislature created a detailed mechanism for the prosecutor with the state attorney’s office to file a demand for speedy trial in Chapter 960, which is dedicated to Victim Assistance. See § 960.0015, Florida Statutes (2018) (codifying Chapter 2005-44, Florida Statutes).
Previously, Florida Statute Section 918.015 already provided that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions the state and the defendant shall each have the right to a speedy trial.”
Under Section 960.0015, the prosecutor with the state attorney’s office is permitted to file a demand for speedy trial if the state has met its discovery obligations, the court has already granted at least three continuances over state objection, and a certain number of days have passed from the date formal charges were filed. See § 960.0015(1)(a)-(b).
The statute explicitly recognizes that a speedy trial cannot be held at the expense of the defendant’s right to due process. See § 960.0015(2), (3), (4) (recognizing in each subsection the discretion of trial courts to grant extensions as “may be required to prevent deprivation of the defendant’s right to due process”).
Those time limits for filing the demand for speedy trial require at least 125 days after formal charges are filed in a felony case or at least 45 days after the formal charges are filed in a misdemeanor case.
Florida Statute Section 960.001(2) explains:
“[u]pon the filing of a demand for a speedy trial, the trial court shall schedule a calendar call within 5 days, at which time the court shall schedule the trial to commence no sooner than 5 days or later than 45 days following the date of the calendar call. The court may, however, grant whatever further extension may be required to prevent deprivation of the defendant’s right to due process.”
The statute also provides:
(3)(a) The trial court may postpone the trial date for up to 30 additional days upon a showing by the defendant that a necessary witness who was properly served failed to attend the deposition and also failed to attend a subsequently scheduled deposition following a court order to appear. The court may, however, grant whatever further extension may be required to prevent deprivation of the defendant’s right to due process.
(b) The trial court may also postpone the trial date for no fewer than 30 days but no more than 70 days if the court grants a motion by counsel to withdraw and the court appoints other counsel. The court may, however, grant whatever further extension may be required to prevent deprivation of the defendant’s right to due process.
Law enforcement agencies have stated completing forms for victims that qualify to protect their identity from being disclosed in a public record request under any of the following provisions:
- Crime victim, Art. 1 Section 16(b) – Marsy’s Law
- Victim of Sexual Battery, F.S. 794.011
- Victim of Harassment, F.S. 784.048(2)
- Victim of Domestic Violence, F.S. 741.28
- Victim of Aggravated Child Abuse, F.S. 827.03
- Victim of Aggravated Battery, 784.045
- Victim of Aggravated stalking 784.048(3)-(4)
Types of Victim Compensation Benefits in Florida
In addition to the restitution the court might order the defendant to pay during a criminal restitution hearing, an innocent crime victim in Florida can claim compensation through the Bureau of Victim Compensation in Florida.
To be eligible for crime compensation in Florida, the victim must cooperate fully with law enforcement officials, the State Attorney’s Office, and the Attorney General’s Office. The crime must be reported to law enforcement within 72 hours unless there is good cause for delayed reporting.
The claim must be filed within one year after the date of the crime or within two years when there is a good reason for not filing within one year. Exceptions for filing time requirements might apply to victims who are minors.
The victim must not have engaged in an unlawful activity or contributed to the situation that brought about his or her own injury or death. The victim must have suffered a physical, psychiatric, psychological injury, or death as a result of the crime.
In Florida, the victim can request different types of victim compensation benefits including:
- DISABILITY – compensation for the victim who suffered a permanent disability.
- WAGE LOSS – compensation for the victim who lost wages due to crime-related physical injuries.
- LOSS OF SUPPORT – compensation for the dependent(s) of a deceased victim who was employed at the time of the crime.
- EXPENSES – payment or reimbursement on behalf of the victim for crime-related funeral/burial, medical/dental treatment, and mental health counseling expenses; as well as prescriptions, eyeglasses, dentures, or a prosthetic device lost, damaged, or required because of the crime.
- EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE – reimbursement for documented wage loss and out-of-pocket expenses related to the crime.
- PROPERTY LOSS – for an adult over the age of 60 or disabled adult who suffered the loss of tangible personal property as the result of a criminal or delinquent act. The victim must have suffered a substantial diminution in their quality of life from the loss of tangible personal property as the result of a criminal or delinquent act. Property loss reimbursement is available up to $500 on any one claim and a lifetime maximum of $1,000 on all claims. The victim must certify that the property in question belonged to the victim; that this loss adversely affects the victim’s quality of life; that there is no other source of reimbursement for this loss; and that replacement of the property would cause the claimant a serious financial hardship.
- SEXUAL BATTERY RELOCATION ASSISTANCE – for the victim of sexual battery seeking assistance to relocate due to reasonable fear. The victim must need to relocate due to a reasonable fear for his or her safety. Certification by a certified rape crisis center in the State of Florida is required. The victim must submit estimates, invoices, or receipts for interim lodging, housing, utility deposits, new cellular phone service, transportation, moving company expenses, or emergency food or clothing.
- DOMESTIC VIOLENCE RELOCATION ASSISTANCE – for the victim of domestic violence seeking assistance to relocate to a safe environment. The victim must need immediate assistance to escape a domestic violence environment. The application must be filled within 30 days after the domestic violence crime. Certification by a certified domestic violence center in the State of Florida is required. The victim must submit estimates, invoices, or receipts for interim lodging, housing, utility deposits, new cellular phone service, transportation, moving company expenses, or emergency food or clothing.
- HUMAN TRAFFICKING RELOCATION ASSISTANCE – for the victim of sexual trafficking with an urgent need to relocate. The victim must have an urgent need to escape from an unsafe environment directly related to a sexual human trafficking offense. The application must be received within 45 days of the last identifiable threat by a human trafficking offender. The identifiable threat must have been communicated with the proper authorities. Certification from a certified rape crisis or domestic violence center in the State of Florida is required. The victim must submit estimates, invoices or receipts from interim lodging, housing, utility deposits, new cellular phone service, transportation, moving company expenses, or emergency food or clothing.
For many crimes, the person who commits the offense is never caught which leaves the victims of hit and run cases left without justice.
Victim Assistant Program in Hillsborough County
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Victim Assistance Program at the State Attorney’s Office works with victims to ensure their rights under Marsy’s Law and Florida statutes are being upheld.
Being the victim of a crime is confusing and scary, no matter when it happens—but especially now, it can be even more traumatizing.
Even during the COVID-19 coronavirus global pandemic, the advocates in the Victim Assistant Program in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit continue to:
- notify victims of first appearance and other court-related hearings;
- keeping victims updated on the status of their cases; and
- assisting victims in the completion of Victim Compensation Applications, Victim Impact Statements, and an injunction for protection orders.
In addition, counselors at the State Attorney’s Office are scheduling and conducting intakes with victims and assistant state attorneys telephonically. The meetings allow the prosecutor’s office to deliver information on the criminal justice system and support services to victims of crimes.
Crime Victim Services in Florida – Visit the website of the Attorney General with the Florida Office of Attorney General to find information on the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights. Learn more about how Florida Law provides guidelines for the fair treatment of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems by authorizing direct-support organization to assist victims of adult and juvenile crime. Find information on the Victims Compensation Trust Fund that helps victims of violent personal crimes to pay for stipulated expenses they incur as a result of the crime.
Attorney General Criminal Victim Compensation Forms – Find the forms that a victim can use to claim compensation from the victim’s compensation fund in Florida.
Victim’s Rights in Florida – Learn more about the Rights of the Victim in Article I, Section 16. Read the provisions of Section 16 in Article I of the Florida Constitutional Amendment to find out more about the rights of the accused and victim during a criminal investigation and prosecution. Find information on Florida Statutes 960.001 to learn more about how Florida law provides guidelines for the fair treatment of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems.
This article was last updated on Friday, April 17, 2020.