In juvenile court, the rights of victims are a little different than in adult criminal court. This is because there are additional privacy protections for offenders under 18 years of age.
Rights of victims
You have a right to attend all hearings where the petition alleges any criminal offense. The probation officer must notify you of the time and place of any hearing and other services you are entitled to.
You have a right to information about the case
You have the right to receive important information before, during, and after the case.
For example, you have the right to get information about
- What charges were filed (if any)
- Your right to get notices about any court dates
- Your right to seek civil damages from youth and their parents
You can also ask to get notified about what a judge decides. For certain violent crimes, you have the right to know about any plea bargains.
You have the right to participate in the court process
There are many different ways you can be involved.
Ask to be notified. If you want to be notified about court hearings, contact the probation officer or the District Attorney's office. You can also look for more help in each county from the Victim Witness Advocate.
Go to the court hearings. You can go alone or take one or two support people.
Make a victim impact statement. The probation officer should include it in the report to the court. If you want, you can read your victim impact statement in court.
Participate in voluntary Victim-Offender Mediation. Participation in mediation is completely voluntary. Mediation is an opportunity for victims and offenders to meet in a safe, structured environment and discuss the effect the crime has had on them and their families, or potentially ask questions. If you do not want to participate, it will not impact your ability to get restitution.
The youth's lawyer, or an investigator representing the lawyer, may want to ask you questions. It is completely your choice and will not impact your ability to get the restitution owed to you. You may agree or refuse to talk, or you may set reasonable limits about what questions you are willing to answer.
You may be able to recover some of your financial losses
You can ask the judge to order the youth (and their parents) to pay “restitution.” You have the right to
- Get your stolen property back when it is no longer needed as evidence
- Apply for compensation from the state’s Victim Compensation Program, in certain types of cases
- Apply for witness fees and travel costs
- Get information from the probation officer about how to sue the offender and the offender’s parents in civil court for your losses
- Ask the court to order restitution so the offender (or the offender’s parents) would have to pay you for your financial losses, such as your medical expenses
Read Restitution Basics for Victims of Offenses by Juveniles to find out more. And the State Restitution Fund is also available for crime victims.
Where you can get help
For help and more information, contact the Victim/Witness Assistance Center in your county. The probation officer may also be able to tell you about local programs.