Very few victims in criminal cases hire their own attorney, and most victims don’t even know this is an option.  They often think that the prosecutor represents them and is their attorney.  The prosecutor (a Deputy District Attorney) represents the People of the State of California.  They do not represent individual victims and there is no attorney-client privilege when a victim speaks to a prosecutor or the prosecutor’s investigator.  It is exceedingly rare that a prosecutor takes the time to explain the victim’s rights law.  Under Marsy’s Law, which became the law in California in 2008, victims have numerous rights in criminal prosecutions, a few of which include:

  • To be reasonably protected from the defendant and persons acting on behalf of the defendant.
  • To prevent the disclosure of certain confidential information from being disclosed to the defendant.
  • To be informed of all court hearings and to be heard at those hearings.
  • To be able to confer with the prosecutor about the charges and any proposed settlement.
  • To be permitted to provide information to the Probation Department, who in felony cases (and sometimes in misdemeanor cases) prepares a probation report in which the Probation Department recommends a sentence.
  • To restitution.

These rights are not asserted by most victims.  When our firm represents victims, we send a letter to the prosecutor, to the court, and to the probation department, that asserts all victim rights available under Marsy’s Law. And we are regularly in contact with prosecutors.  We all or some of the court hearings based upon our client’s request. We can object to the court regarding a plea bargain that we believe is unfair to our client, and the judge can refuse to accept a plea bargain for that very reason.  On cases that are set for sentencing and the judge has discretion in the sentence to be imposed, we can file a sentencing brief with the court, we can argue to the court, and we can assist the client in preparing a written and/or oral statement to the court.  In addition, we can make a specific request regarding an order of money to be paid to the victim (called restitution).  If the defendant is sent to prison, a large percentage of any money that family members put on the defendant’s books is set aside and paid to the victim in restitution.  In appropriate cases, we can refer the client to a civil attorney to file a civil lawsuit against the defendant.