The purpose of this section is to provide general information for victims in a criminal case. The information is not intended to be a comprehensive statement of all victim rights and you should not rely on this information for any specific case or situation. If you have questions about your specific situation you must contact either the local prosecutor that is prosecuting the case, the victim advocate, your own attorney or in some cases the County Prosecutor’s office or the Ohio Attorney General’s office.
Rights of victims of crime are recognized in the Ohio Constitution and in laws that have been enacted by the State Legislature. The Constitutional provision is:
O Const I Sec. 10a Rights of victims of crimes
Victims of criminal offenses shall be accorded fairness, dignity, and respect in the criminal justice process, and, as the general assembly shall define and provide by law, shall be accorded rights to reasonable and appropriate notice, information, access, and protection and to a meaningful role in the criminal justice process. This section does not confer upon any person a right to appeal or modify any decision in a criminal proceeding, does not abridge any other right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States or this constitution, and does not create any cause of action for compensation or damages against the state, any political subdivision of the state, any officer, employee, or agent of the state or of any political subdivision, or any officer of the court.
The rights that you have as a victim vary with the type of offense that has been charged. If the offense is a felony or most types of violent offenses including domestic violence or stalking offenses there is an entire chapter in the Ohio Revised Code that grants you certain rights. (References are to the Ohio Revised Code. There are several places that you can obtain a copy of the full text of the cited code sections including most local libraries. The Ohio legislature also has a site at http://www.legislature.state.oh.us/laws.cfm that has a link to the Ohio Revised Code) The rights include:
Right to Receive Information about Your Rights as a Crime Victim
After its initial contact with you the law enforcement agency investigating the crime is responsible to give you: (a) An explanation of your rights under Chapter 2930 of the Ohio Revised Code; (b) Information about medical, counseling, housing, emergency, and any other services available to you. (c) Information about compensation for victims under the reparations program in sections 2743.51 to 2743.72 of the Ohio Revised Code and the name, street address, and telephone number of the agency to contact to apply for an award of reparations under those sections; (d) Information about protection that is available to the victim, including protective orders issued by a court.
As soon as practicable after its initial contact with you the law enforcement agency responsible for investigating the crime is responsible to give you: (a) The business telephone number of the law enforcement agency responsible for investigating the case. (b) The office address and business telephone number of the prosecutor in the case; (c) A statement that, if the victim is notified of the arrest of the offender in the case within a reasonable period of time, the victim may contact the law enforcement agency to learn the status of the case. RC 2930.04
Right to Appoint a Representative
As a crime victim, you may authorize a member of your family or another person to act as your representative during criminal or juvenile justice proceedings. Also, someone may act as a representative if the victim is a minor, incapacitated, incompetent, or deceased. This allows a family member, or another person whom you have chosen, to participate in the criminal justice system on your behalf and with the same rights you would have.
After being notified of who the authorized representative is, the prosecutor or the court must provide notices only to the representative. All rights by law for the victim must then be requested by the representative. RC 2930.02
Notice of Arrest of the Offender
Within a reasonable period of time after the arrest or detention of the offender the law enforcement agency responsible for investigating the crime is required to notify you of: (a) The arrest or detention of the offender. (b) The name of the offender. (c) Whether the offender is eligible for pretrial release. (d) The telephone number of the law enforcement agency. (e) Your right to telephone the agency to ascertain whether the offender has been released from custody. RC 2930.05
Reconsideration of Bond of Released Offender
If the prosecutor is notified that the defendant or alleged juvenile offender has committed or threatened to commit one or more acts of violence or intimidation against the victim, victim’s family, or the victim’s representative, the prosecutor may file a motion asking the court to reconsider the conditions of the bond or personal recognizance granted to the defendant, or to consider returned the defendant or alleged juvenile offender to incarceration or detention. RC 2930.05
Right to Reasonable Return of Property
If your property has been taken as evidence, it will be safely held until it is no longer needed as evidence. Property seized as evidence may be released by the prosecutor or by the court hearing the criminal case against the offender. In some cases, the property can be photographed by the law enforcement agency and returned to the owner. If the property is identified as being needed as evidence for the defense of the offender, it will be retained by law enforcement until the court can make a decision about its release, taking into account the victim’s need for the property and the defendant’s alleged juvenile offender’s claim that the property is needed as evidence. RC 2930.11; RC 2933.41
Right to Information From, and Meaningful Discussions With, the Prosecutor
The local prosecutor will notify you either verbally or in writing of the status of the case. Additionally, the prosecutor or the court must confer with you, to the extent practical (a) Before pretrial diversion is granted to the offender. (b) Before amending or dismissing a charge. (c) Before agreeing to a negotiated plea. (d) Before a trial of the offender by judge or jury.
If the prosecutor or court fails to confer with the victim regarding the above legal actions, the court, upon being notified of the failure, will note on the record the failure to confer and the reason. The failure to confer will not affect the validity of any action. ORC 2930.06
In addition, after legal action against the offender has begun, the prosecutor or court will provide you, the extent practical, with the following: (a) Name of the offender, now called the defendant. (b) Name of the offense with which the defendant has been charged. (c) Case file number. (d) A brief explanation of the procedures involved in a criminal prosecution. (e) A brief statement regarding your right to be present during all proceedings held throughout the prosecution of the defendant. (f) Procedures that may be followed by you or the Prosecutor if the defendant threatens or intimidates you. (g)The name and business telephone number of the person to contact for further information regarding the criminal case. (h)Your right to have the victim’s representative in exercise your rights and the procedure to designate the representative.
Upon your request, the prosecutor or the court will provide you with a notice of any scheduled court proceedings and changes in the schedule. If you request this notification or any other notice available to you, it is important to keep the prosecutor or court informed of your address and telephone number throughout the process. RC 2930.06
Right to be Notified of Substantial Delay
To the extent practicable and upon your request, the prosecutor will inform you if there is a motion, request, or agreement that will substantially delay the prosecution of the case. If you disagree with the proposed delay, the prosecutor will inform the court of your objections and the court will consider your objections prior to ruling on the motion, request, or agreement. RC 2930.08
Right to Be Free From Intimidation
No one is permitted to threaten or intimidate you or your witnesses during any stage of the criminal justice process. A person who intimidates, threatens, or otherwise frightens you, a family member, or a witness should immediately be reported to law enforcement and can be charged with a criminal offense and prosecuted. The court can also order the person to stat away from you. The prosecutor may ask the court to refrain from identifying your address, place of employment, or similar identifying facts in the case file and during the criminal prosecution, unless it is used to identify the location of the crime. The court can order the transcript of the trial sealed to further protect you. You may ask the prosecutor to file a motion requesting a court order to prohibit a person from intimidating you or a witness, or to prohibit a person from committing an offense against you, your ward, or your children.
Right to Meaningful Participation During the Trial
As a victim, you have the right to attend the trial and any related hearings or proceedings, excluding grand jury proceedings, unless the court finds that your exclusion is necessary to protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial. At your request, you may also be accompanied by a person to give you support. In an effort to prevent unwanted contact, the court, whenever possible, will provide a waiting area for the victim, the victim’s representative, victim’s family, and witnesses for the prosecution, that is separate from the area used by individuals attending on the defendant’s or alleged juvenile offender’s behalf. RC 2930.09; RC 2930.10
Notice of Acquittal or Conviction
At your request, the prosecutor or the court will notify you of the outcome of the criminal or juvenile proceedings. If the offender is found guilty, the prosecutor will provide the following information: (a) The offenses of which the defendant or alleged juvenile offender was found to have committed. (b)The address and business telephone number of the probation office or other person preparing a pre-sentence or disposition investigation and victim impact statement. (c) Notice that you may make a statement about the impact of the offense to the person who completes a pre-sentence or disposition investigation report or to a person who prepares the victim impact statement, and that this statement may be made available to the defendant. (d) Explanation of your right to make a statement about the impact of the offense at sentencing or disposition. (e)The date, time and location of the sentencing or dispositional hearing. (f) Any sentence imposed, including judicial release or modification after a defendant’s or alleged juvenile offender’s successful appeal. RC 2929.20(D); RC 2930.12
Special Rights of Victims of Domestic Violence
When a loved one hurts you, it can be embarrassing, confusing, and sometimes life-threatening. No one has the right to hurt you, your children, or another family member. You have a right to be safe from harm. Getting help is the first step toward a safe future. This section reviews information that may be helpful if you have been a victim of domestic violence.
Is Domestic Violence Considered a Crime?
Yes. In Ohio, it is a crime to harm or threaten to harm a spouse or a person living as a spouse, former spouse, child or sibling, parent or person with whom you have a child. If you are the victim of such threats or abuse, you or a local law enforcement officer or prosecutor may file a domestic violence charge. After a domestic violence charge is filed, you or the officer may also ask the court to issue a Temporary Protection Order. A Temporary Protection Order may be issued by a judge in a criminal domestic violence case to order the defendant to stay away from you while the criminal charge is pending. If you have to go to court for a hearing in a criminal case, you have the right to be accompanied by a victim advocate. The victim advocate that is assigned to the Oberlin Municipal Court can be reached at 440-776-0706 or you may contact the local Prosecutor for assistance. You may also visit the website of the Ohio Domestic Violence NetworkRC 2919.25; RC 2919.26; RC 3113.31
What Can I do to Protect My Family and Myself?
Your local shelter, domestic violence advocacy program, victim witness program, or a private attorney should be able to explain all available courses of action to protect you, your family, and your possessions. Protection orders are helpful sometimes but will not guarantee your safety. Your local domestic violence shelter should have information on developing safety plans to assist you an emergency.
Are All Protection Orders the Same?
No. There are three different kinds of protection orders. Criminal courts can issue a Temporary Protection Order or an Anti -Stalking Protection Order depending upon the type of criminal charge and your relationship to the defendant. TheDomestic Relations Court can issue a Civil Protection Order (CPO).
Domestic Relations Court has the responsibility of terminating marriages, determining custody of children, and providing for a fair division of marital property. The court also has the responsibility of providing protection to victims of domestic violence. A petition for a CPO can be filed with a domestic relations court. Depending on your court, you may or may not need an attorney to assist you in obtaining a CPO, which can last for up to five years. You also do not need to be getting a divorce to ask for a CPO. Check with the domestic relations court, shelter, or the victim advocate to find out how to obtain a CPO. [ORC § 3113.31]
Who Can Help Me With Domestic Violence Problems?
If you are a victim of domestic violence, contact the victim advocate in this court, a domestic violence shelter, your local police department, a victim/witness program, local advocacy program, local children’s services agency, or prosecutor’s office for information and advice. The Ohio Domestic Violence Network has a toll-free, 24-hour, information line to help you locate a shelter or other services in your area. Many domestic violence shelters offer counseling or support groups. In addition, most counties in Ohio have victim advocates that will assist domestic violence victims during the arrest of the offender and subsequent court proceedings.
How Can My Children Go To School If We Are In a Domestic Violence Shelter?
If you and your children are forced to leave your home and go to a domestic violence shelter, Ohio law provides that your children may attend school free of tuition in the school district where the shelter is located. RC 3313.64
- Right To Compensation For Economic Losses Resulting From Crime
In 1976, the Ohio Legislature enacted the Crime Victims Compensation Act. This law helps innocent victims of violent crime recover their economic losses suffered as a result of the crime. In 2000, SB 153 expanded benefits for some crime victims, and streamlined the application process. Victims of violent crime must apply for compensation and must meet certain eligibility requirements. This section answers some of the most commonly asked questions about crime victims compensation.
Can I Get Help Paying Bills Related to My Being a Crime Victim?
The Ohio Crime Victims Compensation Program may help you pay specific expenses that are not covered by insurance or other benefits if you are in one of the following categories: (a) A victim of violent crime [including a victim of a drunk driver). (b) A dependent of a deceased victim. (c) A parent or guardian of a crime victim if you are responsible for the victim’s expenses. (d) Someone who has taken legal responsibility to pay the expenses incurred due to a crime. RC 2743.51
What Type of Expenses Will the Compensation Fund Cover?
An award may be made for: (a) All medically necessary expenses for treatment and care of the victim that are not covered by insurance. (b) Funeral expenses. (c) Loss of income. (d) Counseling costs. (e) Other costs as specified under law.
(Awards are not usually made for property loss or for pain and suffering.) [ORC § 2743.51]
All payments for expenses eligible for compensation will be made directly to the service providers. If, however, at the time of applying for compensation, you have paid some or all of the expenses, you (rather than the service provider) will directly receive reimbursement for the paid expense(s). You will also receive direct payment for any un-reimbursed loss of income you may have and certain other types of economic loss that you personally incur.
If I Am Awarded Money in a Civil Lawsuit, How Will That Affect My Claim?
If the money awarded is for expenses already reimbursed by the compensation program, you will have to pay the program back. You may be ineligible for additional payments from the program because of the earlier civil suit award.
When Must I File an Application for Compensation?
You must file within two years of the date the crime occurred.
If I’m Not an Ohio Resident, Can I Still File?
Yes, if the crime occurred in Ohio, but only if you are a resident of the United States, or a resident of a foreign country that will compensate crime victims who are residents of Ohio.
I Didn’t File a Police Report When the Crime Occurred. Can I Still Get Compensation?
The crime must be reported to a law enforcement agency within 72 hours after it occurs. If not reported within 72 hours, you must show a good reason for the delay. You must cooperate with the law enforcement officer or agency assigned to investigate the crime to be eligible for compensation.
Can My Criminal Record Affect My Eligibility to Receive Compensation?
Yes. Anyone engaged in or convicted of violent felonious criminal activity, including drug-related offenses, 10 years before, during, or after the crime for which they seek compensation cannot benefit from Ohio’s Crime Victims Compensation Program. Neither can anyone convicted of child endangering or domestic violence. When reviewing a claim, program specialists will look for evidence of felonious criminal conduct.
How Do I Apply for Compensation?
Call the Attorney General’s Crime Victims Services Section Hotline at 1-800-582-2877. Many county prosecutors and victim assistance programs also have applications available.
Do I Need an Attorney to Fill Out the Claim for Me’?
An attorney can help you fill out the claim, but it is not required. An attorney cannot charge you for helping to file your application or for legal representation during the application process. The Compensation Fund will pay attorney fees related to your application.
Other Assistance to Victims
In Ohio, numerous statewide organizations and local agencies exist to assist you in dealing with the emotional, financial, and legal consequences of your victimization. Most counties have a prosecutor-based victim witness program, and many have rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, child abuse treatment centers, homicide survivor support groups, and programs that help victims of drunk drivers.
You may want to contact your city or county prosecutor’s office to ask if a victim assistance program operates in your area.