Acknowledging victims is just the beginning

This week, April 10 – 16 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. At the State’s Attorney’s Office we are regularly confronted with issues facing crime victims. We see and hear about the trauma inflicted upon victims. We meet with them and explain what they can expect from the criminal justice process. We provide available services, ask how they want the case to resolve, and work toward having the defendant held accountable for their crime(s).
The cases include domestic violence, sexual assaults, non-sexual assaults and offenses, child abuse, theft, property crimes and other financial crimes.
Our advocates, investigators and attorneys work diligently each day to help victims. Advocates Holly Leach and Kathy Daub-Stearns, and officers Ron DeVincenzi and Roland Tousignant are dedicated to helping victims and assisting the attorneys with the prosecution of these cases. 
Clearly those charged with crimes are protected by the U.S. and Vermont Constitutions, local law and the Courts. But many correctly point out that victims receive far less rights. 

The following are common sense proposals that we should be pursuing for the State’s victims:

The Vermont Supreme Court has lauded the efforts of the legislature to ensure that a Defendant receives a speedy trial when they are held without bail. There should be legislation for sensitive victims that provide expedited resolutions to their cases. Children who are the victims of sexual assault are the most vulnerable of all victims involved in the criminal justice system should receive a speedy resolution to their criminal case. 
Consider creating sentencing guidelines in the larger criminal justice reform efforts. Guideline sentences require uniformity of sentencing throughout the state and can specifically require consideration of how the defendant’s criminal activity has effected the victim. Victims deserve to have a realistic impact in sentencing. Additionally, guidelines can also ensure a defendant is treated fairly.

Create better and broader rules (that pass constitutional review) that will limit the pre-trial release of harmful violent defendants that contact victims after their initial release. Currently, Defendants in Vermont who are charged with violent crimes are generally cited into court then are released. Many times the Defendant is required to stay away from their victim, but make contact anyway. They may be re-cited or arrested for this conduct, than released again. We need laws and procedures that encourage, not discourage victims from reporting abuse.

We should not pass legislation as some have recently proposed that forfeits the victims’ rights funding.

Currently our legislature is determining whether to update the Stalking statutes. This legislation is important. Many criminal acts are being accomplished by the use of computers, cell phones, digital cameras and social media. Old laws can’t protect victims as effectively because when those laws were created our current technology did not exist. Unfortunately some abusers stalk their victims. It happens in high schools, college campuses and amongst those dating and married and other relationships. The traditional stalking laws do not fully protect victims in 2016.

Each year the National Crime Victim’s Rights week has a theme. This year the theme is establishing trust with victims.

Victims of serious crime need to know that their voices will be heard and their participation in the criminal justice system will be meaningful for them. That includes receiving important services and knowing that those convicted are being held accountable, truly accountable for the trauma they have caused.

We need to maintain a common sense approach to crime that sends the message, Vermont supports victims. 
Daniel M Cavanaugh

victims’ rights 2
Daniel M. Cavanaugh is the Chief Deputy State’s Attorney in Washington County. The opinions expressed are his own and do not represent a policy statement for the State’s Attorneys of Vermont in general or the Washington County State’s Attorney in particular.

Sent from my iPhone 

This week, April 10 – 16 is National Crime Victim Rights’ Week. At the State’s Attorney’s Office we are regularly confronted with issues facing crime victims. We see and hear about the trauma inflicted upon victims. We meet with victims and explain what they can expect from the criminal justice process. We provide available services,  ask how they want the case to resolve,  and work toward having the defendant held accountable for their crime(s).

Our advocates, investigator and attorneys work diligently each day to help victims. Holly Leach, Kathy Daub-Stearns, Ron DeVincenzi and Roland Tousignant are dedicated to helping victims and assisting the attorneys with the prosecution of these cases. 

Clearly those charged with crimes are protected by the U.S. and Vermont Constitutions, local law and the Courts. But many correctly point out that victims receive far less rights. 

 The following are common sense proposals that we should be pursuing for the State’s victims:

  • The Vermont Supreme Court has lauded the efforts of the legislature to ensure that a Defendant receives a speedy trial when they are held without bail.  There should be legislation for sensitive victims that provide expedited resolution to their cases. Children who are the victims of sexual assault are the most vulnerable of all victims involved in the criminal justice system should receive a speedy resolution to their criminal case. 
  • Consider creating sentencing guidelines in the larger criminal justice reform efforts. Guideline sentences require uniformity of sentencing throughout the state and can specifically require consideration of how the defendant’s criminal activity has effected the victim. Victims deserve to have a realistic impact in sentencing. Additionally, guidelines can also ensure a defendant is treated fairly.
  • Create better and broader rules (that pass constitutional review) that will limit the pre-trial release of harmful violent defendants that contact victims after their initial release. Currently, Defendants in Vermont who are charged with violent crimes are generally cited into court then are released. Many times the Defendant is required to stay away from their victim, but make contact anyway. They may be re-cited or arrested for this conduct, than released again. We need laws and procedures that encourage, not discourage victims from reporting abuse.
  • We should not pass legislation as some have recently proposed that forfeits the victims’ rights funding.

Currently our legislature is determining whether to update the Stalking statutes. This legislation is important. Many  criminal acts are being accomplished by the use of computers, cell phones, digital cameras and social media. Old laws can’t protect victims as effectively because when those laws were created our current technology did not exist. Unfortunately some abusers stalk their victims. It happens in high schools, college campuses and amongst those dating and married and other relationships. The traditional stalking laws do not fully protect victims in 2016.

Each year the National Crime Victim’s Rights week has a theme. This year the theme is establishing trust with victims.

Victims of serious crime need to know that their voices will be heard and their participation in the criminal justice system will be meaningful for them. That includes receiving important services and knowing that those convicted are being held accountable, truly accountable for the trauma they have caused.

We need to maintain a common sense approach to crime that sends the message, Vermont supports  victims.

Daniel M Cavanaugh

victims' rights 2

Daniel M. Cavanaugh is the Chief Deputy State’s Attorney in Washington County. The opinions expressed are his own and do not represent a policy statement for the State’s Attorneys of Vermont in general or the Washington County State’s Attorney in particular.

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About danielmichaelcavanaugh

Chief Deputy and Special Victims prosecutor with the Washington County State's Attorney's office. Coordinating efforts with local law-enforcement through training and collaboration. Involved with the training of junior deputies. Substantial trial litigation with special victim cases. Working with local partners to provide better processes for child victims and victims of domestic violence. Drug Treatment Court representative.
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