The Mississippi Constitution was amended in 1998 to provide for the fair treatment of crime victims within this state. Section 26(a) of the Mississippi Constitution states: “Victims of crime, as defined by law, shall have the right to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect throughout the criminal justice process; and to be informed, present and heard, when authorized by law, during public hearings”.
The Mississippi Legislature passed the Mississippi Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights in order to carry out the constitutional amendment. The Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights provides several rights, privileges, and notices to crime victims throughout the criminal justice process. The law requires that law enforcement, prosecutors, the judiciary (court officials), correctional system and executive authority (Governor) must provide these rights, privileges and notices to crime victims.
For purposes of the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights:
1. “Victim” means a person against whom the criminal offense has been committed, or if the person is deceased or incapacitated, the lawful representative.
- If the victim is physically or emotionally unable to exercise these rights, he/she may designate in writing a person to be his/her representative.
- If the victim is deceased, the court will appoint a representative who is not a witness to the crime.
- If the victim is a minor, a family member may be designated as the victims’ representative or the court may appoint a representative for the child.
- The victim who is represented by another person may decide to personally exercise his/her rights as soon as he/she is physically, mentally, emotionally or legally competent to do so.
2. The following violent offenses apply:
- Crimes which involve physical injury or the threat of physical injury.
- Any sexual offense.
- Any offense involving spousal abuse or domestic violence.
OBTAINING YOUR RIGHTS
In order to receive this benefit of the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights, a victim must file a written request with the law enforcement agency assigned to your case and the prosecutor. A form titled Request to Exercise Victims’ Rights has been designed by the Office of the Attorney General and is available at law enforcement agencies, district attorney’s offices and the Mississippi Attorney General’s Crime Victim Compensation Division. This form will be given to you in a packet of information provided by the investigating officer within seventy-two hours following the crime. (Until your case has been turned over to the prosecuting attorney, you will need to call the investigating officer for an update on the status of your case.)
The victim or the lawful victim representative is required to:
- Complete and sign the Request to Exercise Victims’ Rights form
- Send the form to the investigator and/or prosecutor handling your case
- Keep the investigator and/or prosecutor informed of any changes in your name, address and/or telephone number(s)
It is the victim’s responsibility to provide updated information to the ingestigator and/or prosecutor. Failure to provide these changes may be considered a withdrawal of your request for victims’ rights. The safest route is to always provide any changes or updated information.
Please note that written requests are required to obtain your rights, and often many other offices are involved in handling your case, not just the prosecutor. You are encouraged to read the Bill of Rights so you can determine what different offices may be involved in handling your case. Be sure that all of these offices have a copy of your written request. These offices may include: any agency which has physical custody of the offender (county or city jail) Department of Corrections, Parole Board, Office of the Attorney General and Office of the Governor.
If you have not received the information packet or the Request to Exercise Victims’ Rights form, please contact the Crime Victim Compensation Division at 1.800.829.6766 or 601.359.4144 for a copy.
SAVIN VICTIM NOTIFICATION SYSTEM
This automated network program allows Mississippi victims to receive realtime information about the custody status of state inmates and offenders housed in county jails statewide. From booking to release, victims can register for immediate access to offender information including notification about the offender’s placement, release, transfer or other change in custody status while maintaining total anonymity. There is no cost to utilize the service, and the information can be accessed by telephone or internet.
Crime victims may register by calling 1.888.9MS.SAVIN (1.888.967.7284) or online at www.vinelink.com.