Sexual Assault and A Criminal Case
Please note: The information on these pages provides general information only. It is not specific legal advice addressing your specific situation. For personal legal advice, contact AVOICE at 1-888-343-4414.
Crime victims don’t have to hire their own attorneys for a criminal case, because the state’s prosecutor handles the case. However, the prosecutor is NOT the victim’s attorney (the prosecutor represents the “State of Texas”), so it is often helpful for a sexual assault victim to seek her or his own personal legal assistance. AVOICE attorneys can assist you in many matters related to your criminal case.
Texas law and the Texas Constitution provide for various rights of crime victims during the criminal justice process, but they can be difficult to enforce without legal assistance. AVOICE attorneys are experts on victim rights in Texas.
If you are the victim of a sexual assault, some of your rights include:
- The right to protection from the perpetrator;
- The right to have the magistrate take your safety into consideration in setting bail for the perpetrator;
- The right to consult with the prosecutor about court proceedings, and the right to be informed if proceedings have been canceled or rescheduled;
- The right to information from the prosecutor about the general procedures of the criminal justice process, including guilty plea negotiations, restitution and the appellate and parole process;
- The right to be informed by an appellate court of any decisions made by the court before they are made public;
- The right to be informed by a peace officer about the perpetrator’s right to bail and the criminal investigation;
- The right to provide a Victim Impact Statement to the court;
- The right to information about crime victim’s compensation;
- The right to be notified about plea bargains;
- The right to be notified about an offender’s parole hearing, and the right to receive information about the parole process, the right to participate in the parole process and the right to provide a statement to the Board of Pardons and Paroles to protest the release of the perpetrator;
- The right to be notified about an offender’s release from prison
- The right to have your privacy protected, including the right to be provided with a private waiting area before testimony in any proceeding concerning the offender;
- The right to the return of any of your property held as evidence when it is no longer required for the criminal case;
- The right to have the prosecutor notify your employer if there is a necessity for you to take time off work for testimony;
- The right to request victim-offender mediation through the Texas Department of Criminal Justice;
- For minor victims (younger than 17 years of age), the right to have the court consider the impact of a continuance requested by the perpetrator;
- For capitol felony offenses, the right to receive a written explanation from the court of defense-initiated victim outreach, the right to not be contacted by the victim outreach specialist without consent, and the right to designate a victim service provider to receive all communications from the victim outreach specialist;
- The right to be present at all public court proceedings related to the offense;
- The right to counseling about AIDS and HIV;
- The right to testing for AIDS and HIV;
- The right to a forensic medical examination.
With respect to any evidence collected during the investigation, such as a sexual assault forensic medical exam (commonly referred to as a SANE – sexual assault nurse examination), you have the following rights:
- The right to information about any evidence that was collected during the investigation, or the right to be informed of the date on which the evidentiary information will be disclosed, if disclosing the information would interfere with the investigation or prosecution of the sexual offense.
- The right to information about analysis of evidence collected during the investigation;
- The right to be notified when a request is submitted to a crime lab to process a SANE;
- The right to be notified of a request to compare biological evidence collected with DNA profiles on the state or federal DNA database;
- The right to receive the results of the comparison, or the right to be given a date for when the results are expected to be disclosed.
In order to receive information as described above, you must provide the prosecutor and law enforcement with a current address and phone number, and keep those agencies updated with any changes to that address and phone number. You also have the right to designate a person, or a rape crisis center, to receive notice on your behalf.
For victims of sex trafficking, child sexual abuse, sexual assault, stalking, or forced prostitution, you have the following additional rights:
- The right to ask the prosecutor to apply for a protective order on your behalf;
- The right to be informed that you may file for a protective order on your own behalf.
A medical forensic exam (or rape kit) is usually performed within 96 hours after a sexual assault. As of June 19, 2009, a police report is NO longer required to receive the exam. In addition, effective September 1, 2013, you have the right to receive a medical forensic exam at any emergency department in the state, and to receive certain information about the status of any DNA evidence collected. Implementation of this new law will take some time. You may want to call ahead to the hospital or use the crisis center locator to ask your rape crisis center which hospital they would recommend you visit for a medical forensic exam.
These are only a few of the rights afforded to crime victims.
When you are ready, contact AVOICE at 1-888-343-4414, Monday-Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm.