Crime Victim Bill of Rights

Introduction
Throughout history countless innocent citizens have been victimized by crime with little recognition of their individual rights or need for special assistance. Simultaneously, the criminal justice system has often been criticized for giving an appearance of protecting the rights of the accused at the expense of these victims. In response, efforts aimed at providing direct services to innocent victims have become increasingly prevalent throughout the country over the past several years.

Primary Objectives
The primary objectives of these initiatives have been to improve the treatment of victims by assisting them in the difficult process of recovering from the criminal act, and to support and facilitate them as their cases proceed through the criminal justice process. Research has shown that as the needs of victims are recognized and addressed, the hearing process is accelerated allowing the victim greater potential to resume normal life.

To date, the majority of these services have been directed toward individual victims of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, impaired driving crashes, elder abuse, and other criminal acts. Over the past ten years the Governor's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council has worked closely with criminal justice practitioners and others interested in victims' issues in order to identify, develop, implement, and expand fundamental services to innocent victims statewide. The progress recognized thus far has been possible due to the collective commitment of these dedicated professionals and is limited only by a lack of funding and other needed resources.

Passing of Victim Related Bills
During the 1995 session of the General Assembly several important victim related bills were passed. For example, Governor Zell Miller called for the introduction and passage of House Bill 170, the "Crime Victims' Bill of Rights," which mandated that the criminal justice system provide the fundamental service of notification of case status to victims throughout all phases of the justice process. Under this law, the Council was designated as the coordinating entity between various law enforcement agencies, the courts, and social service delivery agencies. In addition, it was made responsible for developing and disseminating written information upon which law enforcement personnel may rely in carrying out their duties specified in these newly created statutory provisions. O.C.G.A. ┬ž17-17-6(b).

Two Primary Purposes
In response to these requirements it is hoped that the information contained in the Crime Victims Bill of Rights will accomplish two primary purposes. First, it is designed to outline for law enforcement their obligations to crime victims under the law. Second, it serves to explain to a crime victim how their rights are incorporated within the context of the criminal justice system, thereby satisfying many law enforcement notification responsibilities.