Yes, the victim can help the defendant, though he or she should think carefully about the implications of the “help” they wish to contribute.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Can a Victim Help The Defendant?
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Criminal cases involving person crimes are rarely simple, open and shut kinds of matters.
People are involved on all sides, with their own experience and recollection of the matter.
They have different motivations then you might expect sometimes.
In many cases, the victim of the alleged crime is only too happy to see a no contact order in place, and the last thing she’d want to do is to have any contact with the defendant.
In other cases, the victim of the alleged crime is furious about the imposition of the no contact order (and the fact that the case is proceeding at all).
She’s be more than happy to have contact with the defendant.
Even more than contact, she’d like to help with the case.
Roles of The Parties
To understand what the victim can do in the case (versus what the defendant can or cannot do), it first helps to understand the victim’s role in the case.
The victim, while a critical component in a person crime case, is not a party.
She isn’t a participant, per se.
She isn’t a plaintiff or a defendant.
She can’t file motions.
She can’t jump up and object to the evidence.
While she can hire a lawyer for herself, that lawyer doesn’t necessarily get a seat at counsel table at any point.
The victim is a witness, and is likely to be called upon at some point to provide evidence in the state’s case against the defendant.
This testimony can be provided voluntarily, or compelled with a subpoena.
The victim isn’t “for the state” or “for the defense.”
Which means that she can have an opinion about what she thinks is right and wrong, and how the case should play out.
The victim has certain rights granted by statute once a case has been initiated against a defendant.
Those rights include:
- the right to be notified of important court dates
- to protect her contact information from the defendant
- the right to refuse to speak to the defense attorney or team
- the right to talk to the judge at sentencing
- the right to be consulted during plea negotations
None of these “rights” state that the victim has to support the government’s case, or the defendant’s case.
There’s also nothing that requires the victim to even speak to law enforcement or the government’s investigators, or otherwise assist the government in preparing the case against the defendant (until the subpoena arrives, that is).
Helping The Defendant
Because the victim is not on one side or the other, she can decide if she wants to help one, the other, both, or neither.
For example, because the victim is not the plaintiff or the defendant, she has the right to speak to the government’s investigators, and the defense investigators.
She can speak to who she wants, even if she is advised by one or both sides not to talk to the other.
It is not uncommon for victims to help the defendant hire a lawyer (like finding and initially contacting a defense lawyer, and helping coordinate and gather up the initial retainer deposit).
If the victim makes the decision to assist the defendant, here are a few things to consider:
- The victim can be put in jail if she commits crimes while trying to “help” the defendant. For example, it is against the law to destroy evidence, delete evidence, hide evidence, change/tamper with evidence. it is also against the law to try and influence or manipulate other witnesses into helping the defendant by changing their statements, hiding from a process server, or not testifying at all.
- Helping the defendant by refusing to testify on the stand can result in charge of contempt, and penalties for contempt can include jail or fines until the individual complies.
- Failing to appear for court dates when the witness has been served with a subpoena can also result in jail/fines for the victim.
In general, if you think your “help” is toeing the line of what might be acceptable, right (or legal), you can talk to your own lawyer to get some guidance.
The last place anyone would want to end up is in jail for trying to help someone else stay out of jail.
Government’s Reaction To The Victim’s Help
Making it known early and often that the victim supports the defendant’s side of the case may influence the government’s decisions about how the case proceeds.
While the government does not have to make any decisions about the case based upon what the victim wants, the government may be less enthusiastic about taking a case to trial knowing that the victim will not be the best witness for his case.
Want to learn more about our justice system?
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