Sure, the victim in a criminal case can go to jail, but just like the defendant, the government has to have evidence and legal support for such an action.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Can a Victim Go To Jail? (EXPLAINED)
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Introduction To The Victim’s Role In a Criminal Case
The victim in a criminal case has some specific rights guaranteed to them, such as:
- the right to have a support person attend hearings with them
- the right to be notified in advance of important hearings involving the defendant
- the right to speak to the court at sentencing
- the right to be consulted about plea negotiations
- the right to say no when defense counsel makes contact
These rights do not give the victim the right to bypass other aspects of the criminal case, such as the power of a lawfully issued subpoena, or the requirement to tell the truth on the witness stand.
It also doesn’t protect the victim from part wrongs committed in the same case or others.
When Could a Victim In The Case Be Sent To Jail?
The primary situations that come to mind that could result in a jail cell for a victim include:
- trying to help the defendant hide from or evade arrest
- trying to damage or destroy evidence in the case
- trying to manipulate witnesses into saying something else (witness tampering)
- lying while testifying (under oath)
- failing to appear at court on the specified day and at the specified time
- refusing to testify without a valid right to remain silent
Naturally the prosecutor would hope for and prefer that the victim in the case be compliant and eager to assist, this is not always the case.
The prosecutor may use the threat of jail as a consequence to encourage the reticent victim to cooperate.
But a prosecutor cannot just have the victim arrested for indicating that he doesn’t want to help, or that he doesn’t want to testify.
It would take a criminal act on the part of the victim (or an act that would support a finding of contempt in court) to lead to actual jail time.
Further, while the victim in the case does enjoy some elevate status in the case due to what happened, it doesn’t give him any additional rights to commit bad acts to help himself or the defendant in the case.
What Are The Other Situations The Victim Of a Crime Could Be Sent To Jail?
Most criminal cases are messy.
For example, in domestic violence scenarios, two or more actors participate.
It is common for all the actors to do things during the incident which could result in criminal charges.
It is pretty common for law enforcement to choose one party as the baddest actor, leaving the other uncharged.
But in a mutual combat scenario, where both parties hurt and are hurt, both could be the victim and the defendant in their opposing cases.
During the investigation, police investigators might uncover evidence of unrelated wrongs that implicate the victim (think illegal substances, stolen property, neglected children/pets/elders).
If you are the victim in a criminal case (already filed or soon to be filed) and you think you have exposure to be sent to jail, we recommend that you take steps asap to contact a victim’s rights attorney or a criminal defense attorney to guide you through the case.
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