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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Securing Victims’ Voice

October 28, 2014

In a recent decision, the Utah Supreme Court affirmed victims’ right to file independent papers (i.e., pleadings) in support of their right to seek restitution.  The case involved a defendant who pled guilty to unlawful sexual activity with a child-victim. The victim’s attorney filed a motion seeking restitution and the defendant objected, arguing that victims do not have the right to file papers with the court independently but instead had to rely on the prosecution.  The Utah Supreme Court held that “a victim may qualify as a limited-purpose party” in connection with a criminal proceeding, affirming the “formal role for crime victims” contemplated by Utah law.  This is a tremendous victory for victims in Utah and across the country; it is recognition that victims’ can have an independent voice in justice.  The court stated victims “are not required to wait and benefit from the filings of the prosecution.”  Ultimately, the Court held that Utah law as it is currently written does not allow the victim to recover restitution for travel expenses and lost wages incurred in connection with attending criminal proceedings. This case shows both the progress made on victims’ rights and all the work yet to be done to ensure statutes ensure victims do not carry the financial burden of their own victimization.

The victim in this case was represented by a longtime partner of NCVLI, the  Utah Crime Victims Legal Clinic, and NCVLI filed an amicus brief with the Utah Supreme Court in support of the victim’s rights with the support of local counsel Paul Cassell, Professor of Criminal Law, S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah.

If you are working on a case with victims’ rights issues and need help, click here to request legal technical assistance.