DOES THE VICTIM OF A CRIME NEED A LAWYER?

When a person is a victim of a crime, the state through the district attorney or prosecuting attorney’s office, will provide an attorney to review the police report, assess the case, define the charges, and prosecute the crime.   The prosecuting attorney represents the state and the community to protect the community from further harm.  

After a crime, victims are often confused about resources to assist them.

Sometimes, the victim may need to select a lawyer to represent him or her.  While it is not necessary in every case, sometimes it may be critical for the victim to have the best opportunity to recover as fully as possible from the crime.  There are some situations when a victim should consider retaining a private lawyer.  

  • The victim has expenses related to the crime.   Most states have crime victim’s funds that reimburse victims for out of pocket expenses, such as medical bills or relocation costs.  In some states, such as West Virginia, the fund will pay attorney fees for the victim to hire an attorney to assist the victim with the application for the funds.  In West Virginia there is no reason a victim should not work with an attorney to file that application, who will be able to complete the application and represent the victim in the event that the application is denied.  In other states, such as the District of Columbia, an attorney cannot assist with the application.
  • The victim doesn’t understand what is happening. In some situations, the victim may feel like the D.A. is focusing on the community interests and ignoring the victim.  The victim may feel left out of decision-making or may not receive notice for hearings.  In those situations, a victim may benefit from consulting with a lawyer to help guide them through the process and be sure that their viewpoints are adequately reported to the state.
  • The victim has suffered damages.  In some situations, a victim may have suffered financial losses.  While some out-of-pocket expenses may be recovered through the crime victim’s fund, additional damages may be available from the defendant’s assets or insurance coverage in some cases. In those situations, the victim may want to investigate the potential of a civil case.  This is often the situation when a victim is injured by a drunk driver.  A civil case may also be filed when a third party negligently fails to prevent a crime, such as when a landlord provides inadequate security, a gun owner recklessly stores or sells a gun or a school or business fails to provide a safe environment for students or employees. 
  • The victim wants something more than the conventional system offers.  Many times victims are interested in options, such as a victim offender conference, that are available through restorative justice programs.  In areas where no formal restorative justice program is established, these options may still be available.  A private attorney may work with both state and defense attorneys in understanding and incorporating the options available through restorative justice.
Crime victims may experience a better recovery when they have adequate resources and information.  

Crime victims may experience a better recovery when they have adequate resources and information.  

Brenda Waugh, Attorney at Law, L.C. offers free consultations to crime victims in West Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. to help victims recover from the trauma of a crime and build a new life.  You may be able to secure representation or assistance without incurring any attorney fees.  Contact us via email or telephone to set up a free consultation.