We realize that for many persons, being a victim or witness to a crime is their first experience with the criminal and juvenile justice systems.  As a victim or witness, you have certain rights within the system.  This brochure is being provided to you to assist you with questions you may have regarding those rights.  For further information regarding these rights please contact the State Attorney’s Office (SAO) and/or the appropriate law enforcement agency (LEA) handling your case.

In some cases, victims (or their relatives where the victim is deceased) may be eligible for financial compensation from the State of Florida. Information regarding eligibility may be obtained from the State Attorney’s Office or the Bureau of Crimes Compensation, Office of the Attorney General. 1-800-226-6667


Criminal Justice Process

The stages of the criminal justice system are as follows:

CRIME COMMITTED
After a crime is reported to law enforcement an investigation will be conducted. If law enforcement is able to collect enough evidence, they may make an arrest.

ARREST
Suspect(s) taken to jail, fingerprinted and photographed.  Some are immediately released or have to post a bond to ensure they will show up in court.

(or)

INTAKE
Victim reports a crime to the local State Attorney’s Office.  If probable cause is found, the State Attorney’s Office may choose to file charges and summons the suspect into court.

FIRST APPEARANCE
Occurs within 24 hours of an arrest.  Each suspect kept in jail must appear before a Judge who establishes whether charges are reasonable. The Judge will also consider whether a bond should be set and if so how much.  The Judge will also consider conditions of release and appoint a defense attorney if the suspect cannot afford one.

FILING OF FORMAL CHARGES
The State Attorney’s Office may file formal charges after reviewing law enforcement arrest reports, and within 21 days in certain circumstances.

ARRAIGNMENT
The accused is formally charged and enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

TRIAL PREPARATIONS
The prosecutor and defense attorney interview witnesses and exchange evidence in preparation for trial.

TRIAL
The prosecutor presents evidence to either the judge or a jury about the case. The defendant may be found guilty or not guilty. The process ends if the defendant is found not guilty.

PLEA
Defendant pleads guilty or no contest without a trial.

SENTENCING
If the defendant is found guilty, the Judge reviews sentencing guidelines, plea agreements, etc., and determines what type of sentence the defendant should receive.


Juvenile Justice Process

INTAKE
The process of determining where a child under the age of 18 will be placed until the case is resolved. There are three forms of detention status: home, non-secure or secure.

DIVERSION PROGRAMS
An alternative to trial where the juvenile is placed in a community based program such as juvenile arbitration, juvenile alternative services program (JASP), or a treatment plan (Walker plan). If a juvenile successfully completes the diversion program, then the charges are generally dismissed.

FORMAL CHARGES
The filing of a petition in court by the State Attorney’s Office. The charge may be filed in either juvenile court or adult court, depending upon the crime and age of the offender.

ARRAIGNMENT
The accused is formally charged and enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

ADJUDICATORY HEARING
The trial of the juvenile, conducted in front of a judge. The judge will decide whether the juvenile committed the charged offense(s).

DISPOSITIONAL HEARING (SENTENCING)
When a juvenile is found to have committed a delinquent act the court will hold a dispositional hearing to determine which sanctions to impose on the juvenile. The sanctions could range from community-based sanctions like probation and community services up to residential commitment.

JUVENILES TRIED AS ADULTS
Juveniles who commit very serious crimes may be tried as adults. Juveniles who are prosecuted as adults may be sentenced to adult or juvenile sanctions.

You may contact your State Attorney or law enforcement agency for more information regarding the stages of the criminal and juvenile justice process.


Your Rights In the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems

If you are a victim of a crime or a witness because you have seen, heard, or know something about a crime that has been committed, you are important to the case.  Your testimony may be necessary to establish the facts. Understandably, you might feel anxious about testifying in court. However, without your testimony the defendant might go unpunished.

A “victim” is a person who suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological, or financial harm as a result of the commission or attempted commission of a crime or delinquent act or against whom the crime or delinquent act is committed.

The term “victim” includes the victim’s lawful representative, the parent or guardian of a minor, or the next of kin of a homicide victim, except upon a showing that the interest of such individual would be in actual or potential conflict with the interests of the victim. The term “victim” does not include the accused. The terms “crime” and “criminal” include delinquent acts and conduct.

To preserve and protect the right of crime victims to achieve justice, ensure a meaningful role throughout the criminal and juvenile justice systems for crime victims, and ensure that crime victims’ rights and interests are respected and protected by law in a manner no less vigorous than protections afforded to criminal defendants and juvenile delinquents, every victim is entitled to the following rights, beginning at the time of his or her victimization:

  1. The right to due process and to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s dignity.
  2. The right to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse.
  3. The right, within the judicial process, to be reasonably protected from the accused and any person acting on behalf of the accused. However, nothing contained herein is intended to create a special relationship between the crime victim and any law enforcement agency or office absent a special relationship or duty as defined by Florida law.
  4. The right to have the safety and welfare of the victim and the victim’s family considered when setting bail, including setting pretrial release conditions that protect the safety and welfare of the victim and the victim’s family. 
  5. The right to prevent the disclosure of information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim.
  6. A victim shall have the following specific rights upon request:
    • A The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of, and to be present at, all public proceedings involving the criminal conduct, including, but not limited to, trial, plea, sentencing, or adjudication, even if the victim will be a witness at the proceeding, notwithstanding any rule to the contrary. A victim shall also be provided reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any release or escape of the defendant or delinquent, and any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated.

    • B The right to be heard in any public proceeding involving pretrial or other release from any form of legal constraint, plea, sentencing, adjudication, or parole, and any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated.

    • C The right to confer with the prosecuting attorney concerning any plea agreements, participation in pretrial diversion programs, release, restitution, sentencing, or any other disposition of the case.

    • D The right to provide information regarding the impact of the offender’s conduct on the victim and the victim’s family to the individual responsible for conducting any presentence investigation or compiling any presentence investigation report, and to have any such information considered in any sentencing recommendations submitted to the court.

    • E The right to receive a copy of any presentence report, and any other report or record relevant to the exercise of a victim’s right, except for such portions made confidential or exempt by law.

    • F The right to be informed of the conviction, sentence, adjudication, place and time of incarceration, or other disposition of the convicted offender, any scheduled release date of the offender, and the release of or the escape of the offender from custody.

    • G The right to be informed of all post conviction processes and procedures, to participate in such processes and procedures, to provide information to the release authority to be considered before any release decision is made, and to be notified of any release decision regarding the offender. The parole or early release authority shall extend the right to be heard to any person harmed by the offender.

    • H The right to be informed of clemency and expungement procedures, to provide information to the governor, the court, any clemency board, and other authority in these procedures, and to have that information considered before a clemency or expungement decision is made; and to be notified of such decision in advance of any release of the offender.

  7. The rights of the victim, as provided in subparagraph (6)a., subparagraph (6)b., or subparagraph v(6)c., that apply to any first appearance proceeding are satisfied by a reasonable attempt by the appropriate agency to notify the victim and convey the victim’s views to the court.

  8. The right to the prompt return of the victim’s property when no longer needed as evidence in the case.

  9. The right to full and timely restitution in every case and from each convicted offender for all losses suffered, both directly and indirectly, by the victim as a result of the criminal conduct.

  10. The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay, and to judgment proceedings.

    • A The state attorney may file a good faith demand for a speedy trial and the trial court shall hold a calendar call, with notice, within fifteen days of the filing demand, to schedule a trial to commence on a date at least five days but no more than sixty days after the date of the calendar call unless the trial judge enters an order with specific findings of fact justifying a trial date more than sixty days after the calendar call.

    • B All state-level appeals and collateral attacks on any judgment must be complete within two years from the date of appeal in non-capital cases and within five years from the date of appeal in capital cases, unless a court enters an order with specific findings as to why the court was unable to comply with this subparagraph and the circumstances causing the delay. Each year, the chief judge of any district court of appeal or the chief justice of the supreme court shall report on a case-by-case basis to the speaker of the house of representatives and the president of the senate all cases where the court entered an order regarding inability to comply with this subparagraph. The legislature may enact legislation to implement this subparagraph.

    • C The right to be informed of these rights, and to be informed that victims can seek the advice of an attorney with respect to their rights. This information shall be made available to the general public and provided to all crime victims in the form of a card or by other means intended to effectively advise the victim of their rights under this section.

    • D The victim, the retained attorney of the victim, a lawful representative of the victim, or the office of the state attorney upon request of the victim, may assert and seek enforcement of the rights enumerated in this section and any other right afforded to a victim by law in any trial or appellate court, or before any other authority with jurisdiction over the case, as a matter of right. The court or other authority with jurisdiction shall act promptly on such a request, affording a remedy by due course of law for the violation of any right. The reasons for any decision regarding the disposition of a victim’s right shall be clearly stated on the record.

    • E The granting of the rights enumerated in this section to victims may not be construed to deny or impair any other rights possessed by victims. The provisions of this section apply throughout criminal and juvenile justice processes, are self-executing, and do not require implementing legislation. This section may not be construed to create any cause of action for damages against the state or a political subdivision of the state, or any officer, employee, or agent of the state or its political subdivisions.