Crime Victims Now Have Constitutional Rights

Do Crime Victims Have the Right to Have an Attorney Present During Police Interviews?

January 13, 2020

A victims’ rights attorney can help to protect you during the investigative process.

A victims’ rights attorney can help to protect you during the investigative process.

After being victimized in a crime, you may think that the hard part is over once you file the police report. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. The investigative process can be incredibly traumatic. As detailed by the Netflix series Unbelievable (based on a true story), victims may be questioned repeatedly as law enforcement looks for inconsistencies in their allegations. This process is especially difficult for anyone who has been a victim of a violent crime, including sexual assault and domestic violence.

An Irvine crime victims’ rights attorney can protect you from harassment, intimidation, and other types of abuse during the criminal justice process. This may include having a lawyer present when you are interviewed by the police or another government agency.

Under the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), victims of federal crimes are given a number of rights, starting at the earliest stages of an investigation. Because victims are not simply witnesses in a criminal case — but independent participants — they have the right to have counsel present during interviews and at other stages. Under a California case interpreting the CVRA, a federal court of appeals held that this law “…was enacted to make crime victims full participants in the criminal justice system.”

Victims of crime have a due process right to the assistance of counsel during the investigation. In addition, crime victims should be notified of their right to an attorney and allowed to have their lawyer present during interviews. Doing so allows crime victims to be protected throughout the process, including ensuring that they are treated with fairness and with respect for their dignity and privacy.

In California, Marsy’s Law establishes 17 separate rights for victims of crime. Each of these rights is enforceable under the law. Importantly, Marsy’s Law gives crime victims the right “to be treated with fairness and respect, to be afforded privacy and dignity, and to not be abused, harassed, or intimidated during the criminal justice process.” The best way to make sure that a victim has these rights is to have an Irvine crime victims’ rights attorney with them from the start of the case until its conclusion.

This type of protection is critical for victims, particularly in cases where law enforcement may be skeptical of an allegation — a sadly common occurrence in cases involving violence against women. In the true story that was the basis for the Unbelievable series, the victim was not only disbelieved by law enforcement after she reported a violent rape — she was ultimately charged with filing a false police report after being repeatedly questioned and badgered by detectives handling the case. Ultimately, the rapist was caught after attacking other women, and the police found evidence that he had assaulted the young woman who they disbelieved.

Some law enforcement officers do not have a thorough understanding of the impact of trauma on how a victim may respond. As a result, inconsistencies, an “inappropriate” reaction or even insisting that you are fine can all be viewed as evidence that you are lying. In reality, these behaviors may be an indication of trauma. An experienced Irvine crime victims’ rights attorney can protect you from overzealous law enforcement officers who may be unfairly harsh in questioning you or challenging your allegations.

As a former prosecutor, attorney Michael E. Fell knows how the criminal justice system works. He is committed to working with crime victims to help them through the process.

Justice 4 Crime Victims represents Californians who have been victims of all types of crimes. Contact us today at 949-585-9055 or mfell@fellesq.com to schedule a free initial consultation with an Irvine victims’ rights attorney.