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National Crime Victim Law Institute

Featured Right: Notice

January 21, 2011

Our featured right this issue is the right to notice - “the gateway right.”  The right to notice is the right to advisement of the existence of crime victims’ rights and the right to advisement of specific events during the criminal justice process.  The right to notice is distinct from the right to information, which refers to a crime victim’s right to be generally informed about criminal proceedings and about available resources.  The language of the right to notice varies by jurisdiction.

The right to notice is at the heart of victims’ participatory status because, if a victim is unaware of his or her rights or proceedings in which those rights are implicated, the victim cannot participate in the system.  The United States Supreme Court has stated that due process, at its core, requires that “parties whose rights are to be affected are entitled to be heard and, in order that they may enjoy that right, they must first be notified.”[i]  The critical nature of the right to notice was observed by Senator Kyl while discussing the notice provision of the CVRA:  “The notice provisions are important because if a victim fails to receive notice of a public proceeding in the criminal case at which the victim’s right could otherwise have been exercised, the right has effectively been denied.”[ii]    

At the state level, there are substantial variations regarding whether a victim must enter a request to trigger the right to notice.  The requirement that a victim “request” notice takes numerous forms: some states explicitly require written request[iii], while others do not include a writing requirement; at least one state requires “registration” with the prosecutor[iv]; and at least one state requires the victim maintain a landline through which the victim can be reached[v].

On the federal level, subsection (a)(2) of the CVRA provides that a crime victim has the “right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused.”[vi] 

[i] Fuentes v. Shevin, 407 U.S. 67, 80 (1972) (internal citations omitted).

[ii] 150 Cong. Rec. S4267-68 (daily ed. April 22, 2004) (statement of Sen. Kyl).

[iii] See, e.g., Ala. Code § 15-23-63(a).

[iv] See, Iowa Code §§ 915.10(2), 915.12. 

[v] See Ga. Code Ann. § 16-5-93(a).

[vi] 18 U.S.C. § 3771(a)(2).


© 2011 National Crime Victim Law Institute