U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Defining the Role of the Victim in Criminal Prosecution

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1982
47 pages
This paper considers the impact of the victims' movement, the revival of restitution, and providing 'standing' for the victim at various stages in case processing.
A variety of experimental programs and demonstration projects have emerged in recent years that build on the hypothesis that victim reporting and cooperation in law enforcement can be improved by alleviating the difficulties faced by the victim and by offering some prospect of financial reparation for injuries suffered as a result of the crime. These programs may be grouped in the categories of restitution programs, victim compensation statutes, and victim/witness programs. The victims' movement has led to a reconsideration of the scope of restitution in criminal law, whether the victim's interests are adequately represented by the prosecutor in the several stages of the criminal process, and whether criminal law should continue unenforced because prosecutors are too busy, when victims stand ready to prosecute on their own. White-collar crime is a special case in the devising of restitution procedures, since costs to individual victims may be difficult to determine and many victims may be involved in a single corporate offense. This may involve the action of proxy victims, who may be government agencies acting as complaining witnesses because they have gathered information about the defendant's criminal activities and the injuries suffered by individual victims. The notice sanction and class actions may also be involved in victim restitution. The victim deserves a voice in the criminal justice system, not only in hearings on the amount of restitution to be paid him/her but also on the offenses to be used as the basis for such restitution. The victim should have a right to participate in court hearings on dismissals, guilty pleas, and sentences. The victim should also sometimes be permitted to proceed on his/her own through private prosecution. A total of 93 footnotes are provided.

Date Published: January 1, 1982