When someone is victimized by a wrongdoer, the state will often seek to punish the defendant by issuing criminal charges. The victim is not a party to the criminal case but has certain rights nonetheless. The goal is to make sure the defendant does not recidivate, or return to the bad behavior. Pursuing a civil claim as a crime victim is seeking justice for the victim as an individual and attempting to make the victim whole again. A civil lawsuit can hold all of those responsible for contributing to the crime responsible, including businesses, schools, clubs or other government bodies, such as the Department of Human Services. Different from the criminal realm, the civil justice system is designed to ensure a victim is compensated for the trauma the wrongdoer caused.

Q
What is the statute of limitations for a crime?
AA crime victim case is still categorized as a type of personal injury case. Most personal injury cases have a two-year statute of limitations. However, the legislature has broadened the definition of “compensable crimes,” so that more acts full under a longer statute of limitations. Under the expansion, the statute for compenssable crimes is five years. A compensable crime is abuse of a corpse in any degree or an intentional, knowing or reckless or criminally negligent act that results in injury or death of another person and that, if committed by a person of full legal capacity, would be punishable as a crime in this state.
Q
What is Crime Victim Compensation?
AOregon has implemented the Crime Victims’ Compensation program since 1978. The program offers financial services to victims of sexual assault, vehicle collisions and other violent crimes or to the survivors of homicide victims. The money is not disbursed from state general funds, but from a federal Victims of Crime Act grant, assessments and restitution from criminal cases, subrogation of crime-related money that victims receive from other sources and punitive damage awards from civil cases.
Q
What are my rights as a crime victim?
AUnder the Federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, crime victims have the following rights:

  1. The right to be reasonably protected from the accused.
  2. The right to reasonable, accurate and timely notice of any public court proceeding or any parole proceeding involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused.
  3. The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court after receiving clear and convincing evidence determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding.
  4. The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing or any parole proceeding.
  5. The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the government in the case.
  6. The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.
  7. The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
  8. The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.
Q
What are my constitutional rights in Oregon?
AIn additional to federal rights, crime victims have additional rights as set forth in Section 42 of the Oregon Constitution.

In criminal prosecutions and juvenile court delinquency cases:

  • The right to be present at and, upon specific request, to be informed in advance of any critical stage of the proceedings held in open court when the defendant will be present, and to be heard at the pretrial release hearing and the sentencing or juvenile court delinquency disposition
  • The right, upon request, to obtain information about the conviction, sentence, imprisonment, criminal history and future release from physical custody of the criminal defendant or convicted criminal and equivalent information regarding the alleged youth offender or youth offender
  • The right to refuse an interview, deposition or other discovery request by the criminal defendant or other person acting on behalf of the criminal defendant provided, however, that nothing in this paragraph shall restrict any other constitutional right of the defendant to discovery against the state
  • The right to receive prompt restitution from the convicted criminal who caused the victim’s loss or injury
  • The right to have a copy of a transcript of any court proceeding in open court, if one is otherwise prepared
  • The right to be consulted, upon request, regarding plea negotiations involving any violent felony
  • The right to be informed of these rights as soon as practicable

For public protection from an accused person during criminal proceedings; denial of pretrial release:

  • The right to be reasonably protected from the criminal defendant or the convicted criminal throughout the criminal justice process and from the alleged youth offender or youth offender throughout the juvenile delinquency proceedings
  • The right to have decisions by the court regarding the pretrial release of a criminal defendant based upon the principle of reasonable protection of the victim and the public, as well as the likelihood that the criminal defendant will appear for trial
Q
Should I pursue a civil claim?
AIt depends on your goals. You might be able to achieve your goals through the criminal justice system without ever having to file a civil claim. Or you might need to file a civil case against a third party, e.g., a hospital, a school, the Department of Human Services, to hold them accountable for making it possible for the criminal defendant to victimize you. It is best to consult about a potential civil claim sooner than later. If you wait while the criminal case is ongoing, you might miss out on opportunities the prosecution provides or, worse, you could miss the civil statute of limitations and lose your right to any civil case.
Q
What is restitution?
ACriminal defendants typically must be ordered to pay money to the crime victims or survivors of homicide victims to help with their financial losses. Paying restitution usually becomes a condition of probation or post-prison supervision. Actually collecting the money is sometimes difficult, though. In order to qualify for restitution, the victim must prove they were in fact the victim of the crime in question and suffered economic damages as a result.
Q
What is a compensatory fine? Will I receive one?
ACompensatory fines are involved in criminal cases and meant to punish the defendant for their wrongdoing. A victim or survivor of a deceased victim whose case is prosecuted in state court and who has economic damages is eligible for the court to order the defendant to pay a compensatory fine. Each dollar the defendant pays toward the fine is applied until the fine is fully paid. Payments received for other court-ordered obligations, like restitution and fees, are divided evenly between the obligations until each is completely paid, which is why some district attorneys seek compensatory fines instead of the full restitution amount. The amount a court may order for a compensatory fine varies based on the class of the felony or misdemeanor.

HAVE ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS?