Who Qualifies as a Victim Under California’s Victims’ Rights Law?

Marsy’s Law defines who is considered a victim.

Who Qualifies as a Victim Under California’s Victims’ Rights Law?

In 2008, Californians approved Marsy’s Law, guaranteeing constitutional rights to crime victims and their families. Under the Crime Victims Bill of Rights, victims of crime were entitled to:

  • Be treated with fairness and respect for their privacy and dignity;
  • Receive reasonable notice of all public proceedings related to prosecution of the crime;
  • Receive notice of plea bargaining and have a voice in this activity;
  • Have their safety considered when setting bail;
  • Present a victim impact statement for the judge to consider before sentencing;
  • Refuse an interview, discovery, or deposition request made on the defendant’s behalf;
  • Be protected from disclosure of confidential information or records to defendant, their attorney, or the media;
  • Object to any delays in the proceeding, including motions to continue the trial;
  • Have property used as evidence returned promptly;
  • Receive restitution for losses suffered as a result of criminal activity; and
  • Attend parole hearings and argue against release.

This law is incredibly important, as it empowers victims and their families and helps ensure that they receive justice. For some, it may raise a question: who exactly is considered a crime victim under Marsy’s Law?

As an Irvine victims’ rights attorney can explain, California explicitly defines the term “victim” in its laws. A victim is “…a person against who a crime has been committed” and who suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological, or financial harm as a result. This term also includes the victim’s spouse, parents, children, siblings, or guardian, as well as a

lawful representative of a crime victim who is deceased, a minor, or physically or psychologically incapacitated. Importantly, a victim does not include a person who is in custody for a criminal offense or the person who has been accused of the crime.

A crime is an act committed in the state, which if committed by a competent adult, would constitute a misdemeanor or felony. This definition applies to both crimes committed by adults and by juveniles (delinquent acts), as long as the act would have been a crime if it were committed by an adult. In other words, if a juvenile is charged with a delinquent act for violating a law that applies only to minors — such as possession of marijuana if you are under the age of 21.

How do these definitions work in real-life criminal law cases? The answer depends on the facts of a particular case. For example, consider a case where Emma, a 10 year old girl, is sexually abused by a family friend, Mark, who is 40 years old. In this situation, Emma is clearly a victim, as she suffered direct harm from the commission of a crime — sexual abuse of a child. However, her parents and siblings may also be considered victims in this situation. They may have suffered significant harm as a result of Mark’s actions, such as emotional pain and even financial losses, such as paying for therapy for Emma, her siblings, and themselves. California law recognizes that when a crime occurs, the impact may extend beyond the immediate victim. For this reason, the immediate family of the victim may also be considered a victim of a particular crime. This means that they are protected under Marsy’s Law.

Importantly, the definition of victim does not extend to everyone who may be affected by a crime. For example, if Olivia is held up at gunpoint, she is a victim of a crime. Her live-in boyfriend may suffer harm as a result of this crime, yet because they are not married, he is not entitled to protection under the Crime Victims Bill of Rights.

If you have been a victim of a crime, an Irvine victims’ rights attorney can advocate on your behalf to help you achieve justice. The legal system can be daunting, particularly when you have already suffered a significant trauma. Your lawyer can stand by your side throughout the process, making sure that you understand what is happening, and that your rights are protected.

At Justice 4 Crime Victims, we are dedicated to helping victims of crime and their families as they navigate the criminal justice system. As a former prosecutor, attorney Michael L. Fell understands how the system works. He puts that knowledge and experience to work for his clients every day. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a seasoned Irvine victims’ rights attorney, reach out today at 949-585-9055 or mfell@fellesq.com.