Chapter 56 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure sets forth the Rights of Crime Victims. A crime victim is defined under the Code as a victim of sexual assault, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, trafficking of persons, or injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual or who has suffered personal injury or death as a result of the criminal conduct of another. The Code also extends victim rights to the guardian of a victim or the close relative of a deceased victim. The Code defines a close relative as a spouse, parent, adult sibling, or child.
Under the Code, crime victims receive safeguards, assurances, and considerations, including the following:
The right to receive adequate protection from harm and threats of harm arising from cooperation with prosecution efforts;
The right to have their safety considered by the magistrate when setting bail;
The right to receive information, on request, of relevant court proceedings, including appellate proceedings, of cancellations and rescheduling prior to the event, and appellate court decisions after the decisions are entered but before they are made public;
The right to be informed, when requested, by a peace officer about the defendant’s right to bail and criminal investigation procedures, and from the prosecutor’s office about general procedures in the criminal justice system, including plea agreements, restitution, appeals and parole;
The right to provide pertinent information concerning the impact of the crime on the victim and victim’s family to the probation department prior to sentencing;
The right to receive information about Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation, including reimbursable costs, payment for a forensic medical examination for a victim of sexual assault, and, on request, referral to social service agencies that provide additional assistance;
The right to be informed about parole procedures; notification of parole proceedings and of the inmate’s release; and the opportunity to participate in the parole process by submitting written information to the Board of Pardons and Paroles for inclusion in the defendant’s file for consideration by the Board prior to parole;
The right to a separate or secure waiting area at all public court proceedings;
The right to prompt return of any property that is no longer needed as evidence;
The right to have the prosecutor notify, upon request, an employer that the need for the victim’s testimony may involve the victim’s absence from work;
The right to receive counseling and testing regarding AIDS and HIV infection and testing for victims of sexual assault
The right to request victim-offender mediation coordinated by the Victim Services Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice;
The right to be informed of the use and purpose of a victim impact statement, to complete a victim impact statement and to have the statement considered before sentencing and acceptance of a plea bargain and before an inmate is released on parole.
A victim, guardian of a victim, or close relative of a deceased victim may be present at public court proceedings, with the consent of the presiding judge.
An advocate may accompany a victim of sexual assault during a forensic medical exam if an advocate is available at the time of the examination.
Please contact your local law enforcement agency’s Crime Victim Liaison or your prosecutor’s Victim Assistance Coordinator for more information about victim services in your community.
Crime victims can feel isolated after their trauma. The Texas Attorney General wants Texans to know they are not alone. Numerous organizations are here to support crime victims, including:
Office of the Texas Attorney General
The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) can help with the financial impact associated with being a victim of crime through the agency’s Crime Victims’ Compensation Program. To find out more information and discover how the OAG can help victims back on their feet, visit our website here.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice
The Victim Services Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) is dedicated to helping crime victims and their families. To find out more information about victim services provided by TDCJ, click here.
Office for Victims of Crime
The Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime administers the federal Crime Victims Fund, which supports numerous programs and services across the nation that help crime victims. Visit their site here to find a list of helplines, state compensation programs, local programs and additional resources for crime victims.
Local Crime Victim Liaison or Victim Assistance Coordinator
Under Article 56.04 of the Code, a district attorney, criminal district attorney, or county attorney who prosecutes criminal cases shall designate a person to serve as a victim assistance coordinator (VAC). The VAC works to ensure victims, guardians of victims, and close relatives of deceased victims are afforded rights granted to them under Articles 56.02 and 56.021 of the Code. Likewise, law enforcement agencies must designate a crime victim liaison who consults with the VAC to ensure victim rights are protected.