Prosecutors are the chief law enforcement officials within their jurisdictions. They represent the interests of the county, state, or federal government. But their agencies also supply the lawyers that deal directly with victims. Therefore, prosecutors’ offices can be viewed as public law firms offering free legal services to com- plainants who are willing to cooperate and testify as witnesses. County prosecutors, referred to as district attorneys (or state attorneys), usually are elected

B O X 7.3 Legislation Introduced in Congress Sponsored by the Crime Victims Caucus

Bills were introduced in the House and Senate from 2009 to 2014 to:

Set up a national database about missing persons and unidentified human remains

Protect youngsters from people with criminal back- grounds who seek to provide child care services

Authorize the use of tax records to help locate a missing or abducted child

Assist child welfare agencies to train employees in identifying and counseling children at risk of becoming victims of human trafficking

Compel parents, legal guardians, or caregivers to quickly notify authorities if a child dies or is considered missing and in grave danger

Make affinity scams as well as fraudulent Internet, television, mail, and telemarketing schemes aimed at senior citizens a federal crime

Set up a national Silver Alert communication network to help locate missing senior citizens

Set up a national Blue Alert system to quickly disseminate information to the public that an on-duty law enforcement officer has been murdered or seriously wounded or is missing after responding to an emergency call, and to provide a description of the suspect

Make the U.S. Department of Defense improve its preventive measures and responses to sexual assault and domestic violence, including the establishment of a sexual assault victim advocate in military units who can receive confidential information

Prevent backlogs of DNA evidence collected from sexual assaults from accumulating at state and local law enforce- ment agencies and to avoid charging victims for the expenses arising from forensic examinations and rape kits

Expand provisions about family and medical leaves to enable workers to address the plight of relatives who suffer con- sequences from domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking

Require institutions of higher learning to include in their campus crime reports incidents involving dating violence, stalking, and domestic violence

Make stalking (with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate) across state lines a federal crime

Be informed in a timely manner about any negotiated plea Protect money earmarked for the federal Crime Victims

Fund derived entirely from fines, forfeitures, and other penalties from being used for other purposes or from being cut

SOURCE: Adapted from the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus Legislation Compendium for 2011 and 2014 (, 2014).

216 CH APT ER 7

Copyright 2016 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. WCN 02-200-203

officials (but may be appointed by a governor). The lawyers who actually handle criminal cases and per- sonally work with victims are called assistant dis- trict attorneys (ADAs) but are also referred to as assistant prosecutors or assistant state attorneys in some jurisdictions. Around the nation, approximately 2,340 prosecutors’ offices pursue felony cases in state courts of general jurisdiction. These government law- yers representing victims can become injured parties themselves. About 3 percent of the chief prosecutors and 6 percent of their ADAs reported that they per- sonally had been assaulted in 2005, according to a nationwide survey (Perry, 2006).

To a great extent, victims are on the same side as the government in the criminal justice process. Prose- cutors and victims therefore are natural allies who ought to cooperate with each other. Prosecutors might want to do what is best for victims, but they also are concerned about their careers and political futures, the well-being of their agencies, and the gen- eral goodof the entire community and society.Attend- ing to these concerns and juggling these competing interests can cause conflicts to erupt between prosecu- tors and the injured parties they purport to represent.

Prosecutors’ offices can and should serve vic- tims in a number of different ways. First of all, they can keep their clients informed of the status of their cases, from the initial charges lodged against defendants to the release of convicts on parole. Sec- ond, ADAs can help the individuals they represent achieve justice by conveying to the attention of judges their clients’ views on questions of bail, con- tinuances, dismissed cases and dropped charges, negotiated pleas, sentences, and restitution arrange- ments. Third, they can take steps to protect their clients from harassment, threats, injuries, and other forms of intimidation and reprisals. Fourth, ADAs can try to resolve cases as quickly as possible with- out unnecessary delays and help their clients mini- mize losses of time and money by notifying them of upcoming court appearances and scheduling changes. Fifth, ADAs can assist victims in retrieving stolen property recovered by police and seized as evidence (President’s Task Force, 1982).

Sometimes prosecutors are able to balance the interests of the government, their own bureaucracies,

and their clients without much conflict. But in certain cases, prosecutors cannot do what is best for all of their constituencies simultaneously. Conflicts can arise between the aims of the government and the outcome desired by those who were harmed. Conflicts also can emerge between the bureaucracy that employs prose- cutors and injured parties who are the clients, custo- mers, or consumers of their services. Finally, prosecutors advancing their careers may not follow unpopular courses of action favored by their clients.

In all of these potential conflicts, if prosecutors must sacrifice the interests of any party, it is most likely to be those of the victim, and not of the gov- ernment, their bureaucracy, or their own careers. Victims can feel betrayed if their lawyers do not look after their needs and wants. Or to put it another way, a lawyer—assigned without choice by the gov- ernment and charging no fee—might not do a satis- factory job from a client’s standpoint.

Place Your Order Here!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *