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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Victims’ Right to be Heard at Sentencing - an Unfettered Right

December 05, 2014

Victims in every jurisdiction have the right to be heard at sentencing proceedings.  The right is found in state constitutions, statutes and rules.  At federal sentencing proceedings the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), which passed in 2004, affords victims the right to be “reasonably heard” at sentencing.  Federal courts have interpreted this right to be “an indefeasible right” akin to a defendant’s right to be heard at sentencing.  Unfortunately, even federal courts sometimes fail to recognize victims’ independent participatory status in proceedings.  This was the case this fall when a federal district court subjected a victim of human trafficking to being sworn-in at sentencing and subjected to cross-examination.  Fortunately, the U.S. Attorney’s Oregon Office recognized the violation of victims’ rights and fought for her right to be heard in an unfettered fashion and invited NCVLI to participate in the case.  NCVLI submitted an amicus letter to the court fighting to protect the victim’s right to be heard so that her voice could truly be heard.