Do Victims Have a Right to Information During the Criminal Justice Process?

A skilled lawyer can help you get access to information about your case

Do Victims Have a Right to Information During the Criminal Justice Process?

It often seems like the deck is stacked in favor of defendants in the criminal justice system. If the police make an error, an entire case can be thrown out — and a person who committed a heinous crime is free to walk the streets. This can feel unfair, particularly to victims of crime.

One of the most fundamental rights that defendants in criminal cases have is the right to the information. Under an important United States Supreme Court ruling, Maryland v. Brady, the prosecution must disclose all exculpatory (favorable to the defendant) evidence to the defense. If the prosecution fails to do so, then the state could be sanctioned — and the case against the defendant may even be dismissed, or the conviction overturned.

As an Irvine crime victim rights attorney, this same right of access to information is not extended to victims in California criminal cases. Although Marsy’s Law amended the California constitution to include a number of victim rights, it does not guarantee access to information. While victims have the right to notice about public proceedings and certain information, and to receive a copy of the defendant’s pre-sentence report upon request, they do not have the same right of access to information as defendants do.

A lack of access to important case information, such as police reports, DNA tests, autopsy reports, and other records, can prevent victims from meaningfully exercising their rights. For example, in California, victims have the right to notice and to be heard at certain stages of the criminal justice process (such as sentencing). If a victim is not informed of the facts of the case, then they may not be able to exercise their rights in a significant way. In many situations, victims are traumatized by the crime, and may not remember all details fully (as is common after traumatic experiences). They may also not be aware of other issues in the case, such as a defendant’s alibi. Being able to review case documents can help victims stay informed and allow them to participate meaningfully.

Victims are also entitled to fairness in the criminal justice process. Going through this process is often a bewildering experience. Being able to review information about the case can help give victims a sense of control, and make the process more fair.

While prosecutors may turn over case information willingly, victims may not feel equipped to ask for these documents — or even know that they can request them. A skilled Irvine crime victim rights attorney can work with the prosecutor to gain access to case information, and if necessary, go to the court to seek these documents.

At Justice 4 Crime Victims, our practice is dedicated to helping victims through the criminal justice process. As a former prosector, Michael L. Fell knows the law — and how to use it to protect victims of crime. Our team is highly experienced, and puts our knowledge to work to advocate for victims every single day. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with an Irvine crime victim rights attorney, contact us today at 949-585-9055 or