Victims' rights in California

The California Constitution and many laws give rights to victims if someone is charged with a crime against them. Many of these rights are automatic, but some have to be requested.  

A victim of a crime is someone who has been physically, emotionally, or financially harmed because of a crime or attempted crime. Close family members of the direct victim also qualify as victims of crime and have the same rights as the direct victim.

The Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008 provides all victims with rights and due process. A list of these rights are available in English, Spanish, and many other languages.

This guide highlights key rights victims can access at different stages of a criminal case. The stages are different if the person arrested for a crime is under 18. There may be also deadlines to request some of these rights, and some must be requested in writing.

Victim rights

Victims have rights before, during, and after a criminal case. If criminal charges are not filed, or not filed yet, there are other resources to help victims.

Victims' rights before, during, and after a criminal case:

When law enforcement investigates a crime, they collect information that may become public record. Victims, who want their address, phone number, or other personal information (like medical records) to stay private, have the right to ask for their information to stay private. They must ask the law enforcement officer.

In some cases, after charges are filed, a judge will issue a Criminal Protective Order (CPO) to protect the victim before a trial or after a defendant is found guilty. In general, a CPO says that the defendant must stay away from a victim or witness and their family. Contact a Victim Witness Assistance Center to get information about whether there is a CPO and how to get a copy.

Victims of some crimes may also be able to ask for protection by filing their own case for a restraining order. A victim can be protected by a CPO and a restraining order at the same time.

When a police report is filed, a victim has the right to ask for a copy of the parts of the report that are public (some parts may be confidential). The request must be made in writing.

Once the prosecutor has filed charges against the defendant, the victim can ask for information about the arrest, and the charges filed. They can also ask to be notified before a case is going to be settled before trial.

The victim can ask to be notified about:

  • Court hearings
  • The defendant’s conviction, sentence, place they are incarcerated, scheduled release date, the actual release or escape of the defendant, and parole status
  • The status and outcome if the defendant appeals their sentence after being convicted

There are many different ways the victim can be involved in the criminal case if they choose. The victim can:

Choose whether to talk with the defendant’s lawyer. The defendant’s lawyer, or an investigator the lawyer hires, may want to speak with the victim and other witnesses as they investigate the case. The victim has the right to choose whether they want to talk to the defense. If they do, they can set reasonable limits on what they will answer.

Go to the court hearings.  The victim can ask to be notified about and attend:

  • Any public hearing where the defendant and prosecutor are entitled to be present
  • Any parole or other hearing after a defendant has served their sentence

The victim can ask for witness fees and travel costs. Sometimes, the victim can be excluded from hearings. For example, if they will testify as a witness, or from some hearings where the defendant is a juvenile (minor).

Make a statement or provide information during sentencing. The victim can ask to make a victim impact statement at sentencing if they choose. Give information to the probation department conducting a pre-sentence investigation and ask to get a copy of the report.


The victim has a right to the return of any property that was being held as evidence in the criminal case, once it is no longer needed.

At sentencing, the court will order that the defendant pay restitution. A restitution order is based on the information the victim provides (like receipts) and is paid to the victim.

  • If the defendant is sentenced before the victim can provide information about their financial losses, the victim can ask for a Restitution Hearing.
  • Restitution amounts may be lower if the defendant is a juvenile.
  • Restitution is only ordered at the end of the criminal case if the defendant is found guilty and sentenced. Victims may also be able to apply for compensation through the California Victim Compensation Board, or file a civil lawsuit against the defendant in civil court.

Free help and information

For free help understanding or requesting your rights, contact your Victim Witness Assistance Center or the Victims Legal Resource Center. You can also find helpful information in Resources for victims in California

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