Local and federal laws establish rights for D.C. crime victims that government employees, including prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges, must respect. If victims think that their rights have been violated by a government employee, they should communicate their concerns to their advocate. Victims may also wish to file a complaint regarding the violation to the relevant government agency. For information about how to submit a complaint, see below.
D.C. crime victims are entitled to the following rights, and D.C. employees are legally required to make their best efforts to ensure these rights are afforded to victims. Section 23-1901 of the D.C. Code states that a crime victim has the right to:
- Be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.
- Be reasonably protected from the accused offender.
- Be notified of court proceedings.
- Be present at all court proceedings related to the offense, including the sentencing, and release, parole, record-sealing, and post-conviction hearings, unless the court determines that testimony by the victim would be materially affected if the victim heard other testimony or where the needs of justice otherwise require.
- Confer with an attorney for the prosecution in the case (although the victim does not have the authority to direct the prosecution of the case).
- An order of restitution from the person convicted of the criminal conduct that caused the victim’s loss or injury.
- Information about conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, detention, and release of the offender, and about any court order to seal the offender’s criminal records.
- Notice of the rights provided in this chapter and under the laws of the District of Columbia.
- Be notified of any available victim advocate or other appropriate person to develop a safety plan and appropriate services.
When an accused offender is a juvenile being tried in the D.C. juvenile justice system, a victim has the right to:
- Be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, sensitivity, and with respect for their privacy.
- Be notified in advance of the dates and times of all hearings and trials.
- Be provided a waiting area that is separate from the respondents and their friends and family to the extent possible.
- Be informed of financial assistance, compensation, and any other available social services.
- Have stolen and other property promptly returned unless otherwise used for evidence.
- Be informed by the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia about a victim’s right to request restitution, when applicable.
- Submit a Victim Impact Statement, and to have the statement considered in the disposition of the case.
- Be provided with appropriate safeguards to minimize the contact that may occur between the respondent, the respondent’s family, witnesses for the respondent, and the victim.
Except when mandated by law, the D.C. government shall not be required to disclose the victim’s name or address prior to a hearing.
The respondent, the respondent’s attorney, or another person acting on behalf of the respondent shall clearly identify themselves as being, representing, or acting on behalf of the respondent at the beginning of any contact with the victim, the victim’s family, or witnesses.
This is a summary of section 16-2340 of the D.C. Code. See the statute for the complete text of the law.
Victims of federal crimes have the following rights under the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act (18 U.S.C. § 3771):
- The right to be reasonably protected from the accused.
- The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding, involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused.
- The right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding.
- The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding.
- The reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the Government in the case.
- The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.
- The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
- The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.
- The right to be informed in a timely manner of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement.
- The right to be informed of these rights under this section and the services described in section 503(c) of the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. § 10607(c)) and provided contact information for the Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice.
Sexual assault survivors have the following rights established by federal law:
- The right not to be prevented from, or charged for, receiving a medical forensic examination.
- The right to have a sexual assault evidence collection kit or its probative contents preserved, without charge, for the duration of the maximum applicable statute of limitations or 20 years, whichever is shorter.
- The right to be informed of any result of a sexual assault evidence collection kit, including a DNA profile match, a toxicology report, or other information collected as part of a medical forensic examination, if such disclosure would not impede or compromise an ongoing investigation.
- The right to be informed in writing of policies governing the collection and preservation of a sexual assault evidence collection kit.
- The right to, upon written request, receive written notification from the appropriate official with custody of the evidence collection kit not later than 60 days before the date of the intended destruction or disposal of the kit.
- The right to be granted, upon written request, further preservation of the kit or its probative contents.
- The right to be informed of these rights.
This is a summary of the Survivor’s Bill of Rights Act of 2016 (Public Law No. 114-236 (10/07/2016).
Child victims have the following rights established by federal law:
- In some cases, a court may permit the child to testify outside the court, using a two-way closed circuit television, or in a deposition before the trial.
- A child victim’s identity must remain confidential.
- When possible, a child abuse team, including police, prosecutors, doctors, and therapists, should be assembled to support the victimized child and prevent further trauma.
- In some cases, the judge may order the courtroom closed to anyone who does not have a direct interest in the case.
- In some cases, the judge may appoint a guardian ad litem to advocate throughout the court proceedings for the best interests of the child.
- When testifying, the child has the right to be accompanied and supported by an adult.
This is a summary of rights enumerated in 18 U.S. Code § 3509.
Contact Information for Filing Complaints Against Select Government Agencies
Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure
515 5th Street NW, Suite 246
Washington, DC 20001
202-727-1363 | TTY
Hours of operation: Mon–Fri, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The commission reviews complaints concerning the misconduct of judges of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals and the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The commission does not review complaints about the decisions these judges make in deciding cases. Do not contact the commission to complain about a judge’s decision in a case. An attorney can explain the process of seeking review of a judge’s decision in a particular case.
D.C. Office of Police Complaints (OPC)
1400 I Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005
1-866-588-0569 | 24-hour hotline
711 | TTY
Hours of operation: Mon–Fri, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
OPC is independent of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) and the D.C. Housing Authority Police Department (DCHAPD). Staffed by civilians, OPC investigates six types of citizen complaints of police officer misconduct: Harassment, inappropriate language or conduct, retaliation, unnecessary or excessive force, discrimination, and failure to identify. OPC also offers citizens the opportunity to commend officers who do exemplary work serving the public by submitting a commendation form on MPD’s website (see below).
Judicial Council of the District of Columbia Circuit
ATTN: Circuit Executive
E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse
333 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20001
The Judicial Council reviews complaints about the behavior of judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, but not about the decisions these judges make in deciding cases. Do not contact the Judicial Council to complain about a judge’s decision in a case. An attorney can explain the process of seeking review of a judge’s decision in a particular case.
Metropolitan Police Department Internal Affairs Division (IAD)
64 New York Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002
1-800-298-4006 | 24-hour hotline
202-898-1454 | TTY
IAD is the internal MPD unit responsible for ensuring that all complaints of officer misconduct are handled properly. IAD investigates complaints filed at any time alleging any type of misconduct, including misconduct that can be investigated by the D.C. Office of Police Complaints and anonymous complaints. Citizens also can commend officers who do exemplary work serving the public by submitting a commendation form on MPD’s website.
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman
Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20530
1-877-574-9302 | toll free
Hours of operation: Mon–Fri, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This federal office hears complaints filed by victims of federal crimes regarding alleged violations by Department of Justice employees of the victim’s federal rights under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 2004.