Since 1990, victims of crime in Arizona have had their rights in the criminal justice system protected by the Victims Bill of Rights. Twenty-five years later, on January 1, 2015, Arizona became the first state in the nation to establish a Victims’ Rights Enforcement Fund (VREF) to support assistance to victims of crime to help protect their rights by offsetting the cost of pro-bono legal representation and social services. The VREF itself is funded by fees paid by convicted defendants.
While a victim’s constitutional rights are supposed to be protected by all parties and they can request assistance from the prosecutor to help enforce their rights, a victim may still choose to have their own attorney. The myriad issues that arise after someone has been a victim of crime, from the emotional trauma to any economic impact and then the struggle to understand an unfamiliar criminal justice system, can be overwhelming and call for more individualized attention. Fortunately, there are organizations in Maricopa County that are dedicated to fulfilling the needs of victims of crime above and beyond the services that are regularly provided.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office’s actively refers victims seeking their own legal representation or social services to qualifying organizations such as the Arizona Voice for Crime Victims, Inc., Arizona Crime Victims Law Group, Never Again Foundation, Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, and the Parents of Murdered Children Valley of the Sun Chapter. While the monies awarded to these organizations through the VREF may not offset all costs, breaking the barrier between rising legal costs and a victims’ desire to be represented by their own attorney helps to foster a fair justice system for all.
MCAO’s mission is to deliver high quality prosecution, comprehensive victims’ services, crime prevention programs, and legal representation for county government. MCAO is dedicated to fighting crime and honoring victims’ rights.