NVAA 2000 Text

Chapter 3 Supplement Specific Justice Systems

and Victims' Rights

Section 2, Federal Justice

Statistical Overview

Revisions to the AG Guidelines: 2000 Edition

A highly significant development in the federal criminal justice system pertaining to victims and witnesses of federal crime is the newly released revisions to the Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance. In October 1996, the Attorney General created the Deputy Attorney General's (DAG) Victims' Rights Working Group, and assigned to it the task of revising the 1995 version of the AG Guidelines. Major goals of the revision were to: (1) update the document with new federal laws pertaining to victims; (2) provide more explicit guidance to the field on "difficult issues" that had never been fully resolved by the Department of Justice; and (3) change the format of the document to make it easier to use.

In accordance with these goals and objectives, the 2000 AG Guidelines incorporate a number of changes in both substance and format. These changes have made the AG Guidelines easier to use and more comprehensible. With respect to format, separate sections were created specifically for the use of the investigative, prosecutive, and correctional personnel to which they applied. Statutory and rule citations were attached to the corresponding guidelines so that the user could refer directly to their text. Finally, a commentary section was added at certain points throughout the document in order to provide additional clarification, guidance, and practical suggestions on how to implement the law and policy that the document contained.

With respect to the substance of victims' rights and services, the revised 2000 AG Guidelines provide the following clarification and guidance:

- The "innocent victim" issue. OLC suggested, and all DOJ components participating on the DAG's Victims' Rights Working Group revisions agreed, that Departmental policy should exclude persons who are culpable for the crime being investigated or prosecuted from being considered victims. The policy does not exclude from victim status, however, persons who may be culpable for some other offense or crime. This example cites persons who may be illegal aliens who are victims of involuntary servitude, victims of witness intimidation, incarcerated persons who are victimized in prison, and persons who may be victims of the excessive use of force by law enforcement officers.

- "Direct" versus "indirect" victims. The commentary section also addresses the distinction between direct and indirect victims. Specifically, it states that only those persons suffering direct physical, emotional, or pecuniary harm are considered victims for purposes of AG Guidelines rights and services. DOJ personnel are not prohibited in their discretion, however, from assisting indirect victims to the extent deemed appropriate.

- Victims of juvenile offenders. The 2000 commentary section discusses at length legal distinctions concerning proceedings involving juvenile offenders, and limits on information that may be provided to or solicited from victims of juvenile offenders by investigators and prosecutors. One significant exception is cited that allows the corrections agency to respond to a victim's inquiry about the final judicial disposition and projected release date as computed on the date when the juvenile sentence is imposed.

In the foreword to the 2000 Attorney General Guidelines for Victim and Witness Assistance, Attorney General Janet Reno states that "The Guidelines reflect my strong belief that victims should play a central role in the criminal justice system and my commitment that all components of the United States Department of Justice respond to crime victims with compassion, fairness, and respect, in accordance with the letter and spirit of the law."

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2000 NVAA Text
Chapter 3.2
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