Crime Victims Now Have Constitutional Rights

Utah Sexual Assault Victims Seek Justice Through Appointment of Prosecutor

November 12, 2018

Their petition is based on a provision in the Utah constitution.

Utah Sexual Assault Victims Seek Justice Through Appointment of Prosecutor

In October 2018, four sexual assault victims — Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, Jane Doe 3, and Jane Doe 4 — filed a petition in the Utah Supreme Court, requesting a prosecutor be appointed so that criminal charges would be filed in their cases. The Jane Does are challenging the decision of local prosecutors to not bring criminal charges against their alleged abusers — and using a new legal theory based on the Utah constitution.

The National Crime Victims Law Institute (NCVLI) joined five attorneys, including Professor Paul Cassell of the Utah Appellate Clinic, in bringing this case. As an experienced Irvine victims’ rights attorney can explain, it is based on a provision of the Utah Constitution that allows the Utah Supreme Court to appoint a prosecutor. Under Article VII, Section 16, “if a public prosecutor fails or refuses to prosecute, the Supreme Court shall have power to appoint a prosecutor pro tempore.”

In each of the four sexual assault cases, local prosecutors refused to file criminal charges, despite strong evidence supporting the charges. The petition argues that it would be in the interests of justice for the Court to appoint a prosecutor. Although the Utah Supreme Court has rarely — if ever — exercised its power to appoint a prosecutor, the Jane Does argue that the failure of local prosecutors to pursue these cases warrants intervention of the Court. This appears to be the first time that crime victims have used the Utah Constitution to request the appointment of a prosecutor.

According to NCVLI Executive Director Meg Garvin, “Sexual assault victims are all too often not only without a voice in the criminal justice system but in essence without even any way to access justice; this case in an effort to ensure change.” Numerous anti-sexual violence organizations have supported the petition, including the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, the Joyful Heart Foundation, End Violence Against Women International, and Legal Momentum.

Utah is unique in that its constitution specifically allows for this type of petition. Most states, including California, leave charging decisions to the sole discretion of the prosecutor. In most cases, prosecutors aggressively pursue criminal charges against alleged perpetrators. However, in situations where the District Attorney’s Office may be reluctant to bring charges, a skilled Irvine victims’ rights attorney may be able to intercede.

In a California criminal case, the prosecutor does not represent you, the victim. Instead, he or she represents “the people” of the state of California. Navigating the criminal justice system can be complex and overwhelming, particularly as you are dealing with the trauma of an assault or other crime. A seasoned Irvine victims’ rights attorney can shepherd you through the process, and can advocate for your best interests. This can include ensuring that the prosecutor listens to your side of the story, and that the District Attorney’s Office takes your case seriously.

Although there is not a constitutional method to petition for the appointment of a prosecutor in California, there are various methods that an Irvine victims’ rights attorney can utilize to increase the likelihood that your case will be prosecuted. As an experienced former prosecutor, attorney Michael L. Fell understands how the system works. He will advocate on your behalf to increase the likelihood that charges will be brought against the person who harmed you.

If charges are filed, he will work with you to protect your rights as a victim under Marsy’s Law. Throughout the process, the team of legal professionals at Justice 4 Crime Victims will stand by your side, helping you access the services that you need, getting you the restitution that you deserve, and assisting you with every step of the challenge criminal justice process.

If you have been a victim of a crime in California, please know that there is help. Justice 4 Crime Victims is dedicated to assisting Californians who have suffered a range of crimes, from violence to property crimes. Contact us today at 949-585-9055 or mfell@fellesq.com to schedule an appointment with an Irvine victims’ rights attorney. Initial consultations are always free.