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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Stegman v. United States, No. 14-2445-JWL, 2015 WL 728487 (D. Kan. Feb. 19, 2015).

April 17, 2015

An identity theft victim was notified by the United States government that her identity had been stolen and used to file federal income tax returns for tax years 2012 and 2013.  The investigation of the crime was on-going and no formal charges had yet been brought.  The victim, through written request, asked the government to provide her with information on the crime itself and the status of the investigation.  After the government refused to provide her with the information, the victim filed suit in district court under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), 18 U.S.C. § 3771, seeking a court order compelling the United States government to turn over the information.  The victim claimed that the government had violated three of her CVRA rights:  to be reasonably protected from the accused; to proceedings free from unreasonable delay; and to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.  The court rejected each of these claims in turn.  First, the court reasoned that because the government was still investigating the crime and no arrests had been made there was no “accused” person under the CVRA from whom the victim was to be protected from harm.  In addition, the court cited to the proposition that for CVRA purposes proceedings are underway once charges are filed, and since there were no proceedings underway in the present case, there could be no violation of her right to proceedings free from delay.  Finally, the court rejected her final claim on the ground that the CVRA does not obligate the government’s attorney to disclose any information in its investigative file to crime victims.  The court held that in absence of any authority granting victims access to the government’s files, the victim could not establish a violation of her right to be treated with fairness.   As such, the court granted the government’s motion to dismiss the victim’s CVRA suit for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted.