Victim Rights & Legal Resources for Survivors


Crime Victim Rights

(Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 56 Texas Constitution, Article I Section 30)

  • Receive adequate protection from harm and threats of harm arising from cooperation with prosecution efforts;
  • have their safety considered by the magistrate when setting bail;
  • receive information, on request, of relevant court proceedings, including appellate proceedings, of cancellations and rescheduling prior to the event, and appellate court decisions after the decisions are entered but before they are made public;
  • be informed, when requested, by a peace officer about the defendant’s right to bail and criminal investigation procedures, and from the prosecutor’s office about general procedures in the criminal justice system, including plea agreements, restitution, appeals and parole;
  • provide pertinent information concerning the impact of the crime to the probation department prior to sentencing;
  • information about the Texas Crime Victims’ Compensation Fund and payment for a medical examination for a victim of sexual assault, and, on request, referral to social service agencies that provide additional assistance;
  • information, on request, about parole procedures; notification of parole proceedings and of the inmate’s release; and the opportunity to participate in the parole process by submitting written information to the Board of Pardons and Paroles for inclusion in the defendant’s file for consideration by the Board prior to parole;
  • a separate or secure waiting area at all public court proceedings;
  • prompt return of any property that is no longer needed as evidence;
  • have the prosecutor notify, upon request, an employer that the need for the victim’s testimony may involve the victim’s absence from work;
  • on request, counseling and testing regarding AIDS and HIV infection and testing for victims of sexual assault
  • request victim-offender mediation coordinated by the Victim Services Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice;
  • be informed of the use and purpose of a victim impact statement, to complete a victim impact statement and to have the statement considered before sentencing and acceptance of a plea bargain and before an inmate is released on parole.

A victim, guardian of a victim, or close relative of a deceased victim may be present at all public court proceedings, with the consent of the presiding judge;

A judge, attorney for the state, peace officer, or law enforcement agency is not liable for a failure or inability to provide a service enumerated herein.

Victims should also know that they can have a victim advocate accompany them during the sexual assault exam if an advocate is available at the time of the examination.

Art.56.021. Rights of Victim of Sexual Assault or Abuse, Stalking, or Trafficking

(a) In addition to the rights enumerated in Article 56.02, if the offense is a sexual assault, the victim, guardian of a victim, or close relative of a deceased victim is entitled to the following rights within the criminal justice system:

  1. if requested, the right to a disclosure of information regarding any evidence that was collected during the investigation of the offense, unless disclosing the information would interfere with the investigation or prosecution of the offense, in which event the victim, guardian, or relative shall be informed of the estimated date on which that information is expected to be disclosed;
  2. if requested, the right to a disclosure of information regarding the status of any analysis being performed of any evidence that was collected during the investigation of the offense;
  3. if requested, the right to be notified:
    1. at the time a request is submitted to a crime laboratory to process and analyze any evidence that was collected during the investigation of the offense;
    2. at the time of the submission of a request to compare any biological evidence collected during the investigation of the offense with DNA profiles maintained in a state or federal DNA database; and
    3. of the results of the comparison described by Paragraph (B), unless disclosing the results would interfere with the investigation or prosecution of the offense, in which event the victim, guardian, or relative shall be informed of the estimated date on which those results are expected to be disclosed;
  4. if requested, the right to counseling regarding acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection;
  5. for the victim of the offense, testing for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, antibodies to HIV, or infection with any other probable causative agent of AIDS; and
  6. to the extent provided by Articles 56.06 and 56.065, for the victim of the offense, the right to a forensic medical examination if, within 96 hours of the offense, the offense is reported to a law enforcement agency or a forensic medical examination is otherwise conducted at a health care facility.

(b) A victim, guardian, or relative who requests to be notified under Subsection (a)(3) must provide a current address and phone number to the attorney representing the state and the law enforcement agency that is investigating the offense. The victim, guardian, or relative must inform the attorney representing the state and the law enforcement agency of any change in the address or phone number.

(c) A victim, guardian, or relative may designate a person, including an entity that provides services to victims of sexual assault, to receive any notice requested under Subsection (a)(3).

(d) This subsection applies only to a victim of an offense under Section 20A.02, 20A.03, 21.02, 21.11, 22.011, 22.021, 42.072, or 43.05, Penal Code. In addition to the rights enumerated in Article 56.02 and, if applicable, Subsection (a) of this article, a victim described by this subsection or a parent or guardian of the victim is entitled to the following rights within the criminal justice system:

  1. the right to request that the attorney representing the state, subject to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, file an application for a protective order under Article 7A.01 on behalf of the victim;
  2. the right to be informed:
    1. that the victim or the victim's parent or guardian, as applicable, may file an application for a protective order under Article 7A.01;
    2. of the court in which the application for a protective order may be filed; and
    3. that, on request of the victim or the victim's parent or guardian, as applicable, and subject to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, the attorney representing the state may file the application for a protective order;
  3. if the victim or the victim's parent or guardian, as applicable, is present when the defendant is convicted or placed on deferred adjudication community supervision, the right to be given by the court the information described by Subdivision (2) and, if the court has jurisdiction over applications for protective orders that are filed under Article 7A.01, the right to file an application for a protective order immediately following the defendant's conviction or placement on deferred adjudication community supervision; and
  4. if the victim or the victim's parent or guardian, as applicable, is not present when the defendant is convicted or placed on deferred adjudication community supervision, the right to be given by the attorney representing the state the information described by Subdivision (2).

Legal Resources

Texas Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE)

A toll-free number for victims to receive standard information and notification on offender status and court events in order to better meet victims' needs and enhance their safety.

The system benefits for the criminal justice system by providing an efficient manner for notification of victims in a system that is often overburdened and unable to fulfill its mandates. The system allows victims, law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates and other criminal justice professionals to have immediate access to offender information.

Victims can use VINE 24-hours a day for information on county jail status and court events.

Victims can register to be automatically notified of court events and changes in jail status.

Call toll-free at 1-877-TX4-VINE.


Use of a Pseudonym

Victims of sexual assault, family violence, or human trafficking have the right to request the use of a pseudonym.

Victims may submit a form requesting law enforcement to remove the victim’s name from public files and records concerning the offense, including policy summary reports, press releases, and records of judicial proceedings.

A pseudonym, or fictitious name, will be used instead of the victim’s name to designate the victim in all public files and records concerning the offense.

The victim must understand the pseudonym is only used in records concerning the offense, and not for other public files and records that are not related to the offense.


Victim Impact Statement (VIS)

VIS is a detailed account of the emotional/ psychological, physical, and financial impact of the crime on the victim and family members.

This form can be used by crime victims to explain their feelings such as loss, frustration, fear, and/or anger.

By submitting a VIS, the victim provides a perspective no one else can. If the VIS is not part of the defendant’s file, key decision-makers in the system will not have heard from the people most affected by this crime.

How the VIS is used…

During the Prosecution Phase

The prosecutor must consider the VIS before entering into a plea agreement. The prosecutor may use information from the VIS to determine how much restitution to request as part of a sentence.

Prior to the imposition of a sentence or prior to accepting a plea agreement, the judge must consider the VIS

Post Sentencing

The VIS will be given to the probation officer or corrections center.  It will additionally be used to register the victim for notification services

The Parole Process

When the defendant becomes eligible for parole consideration, the VIS is one of the items the Board of Pardons and Paroles will consider prior to voting whether or not to release the offender.

Victims have the right to be INFORMED of parole procedures; to PARTICIPATE in the parole process; and to PROVIDE INFORMATION to be considered by the Board of Pardons and Paroles prior to the discretionary release of the offender.

 

Tenancy Laws and Sexual Assault

In some circumstances Texas law allows survivors of sexual assault, attempted sexual assault, stalking and parents of child sexual abuse victims, to break their leases early without having to pay a penalty.

In general, tenants who were sexually assaulted or stalked on the leased premises (or any dwelling on the leased premises) must give their landlord notice that they are breaking their leases within 6 months of the offense.

The tenant must give the landlord 30 days’ notice before moving out. Second, that notice must be accompanied by acceptable documentation of the sexual assault, attempted sexual assault or stalking.

Documentation may include

(1) documentation from a health care services provider who examined the tenant,

(2) documentation from a mental health service provider who examined or evaluated the tenant,

(3) documentation from a rape crisis center or sexual assault program that provided services to the tenant, or

(4) a final sexual assault protective order issued by a judge


Title IX

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments is a powerful tool for combating campus violence.

The law requires colleges and universities receiving federal funding to combat gender-based violence and harassment, and respond to survivors’ needs in order to ensure that all students have equal access to education.

Title IX is a landmark federal civil right that prohibits sex discrimination in education.

Title IX is not just about sports; it is a prohibition against sex-based discrimination in education. It also addresses sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination, and sexual violence, including attempted or completed sexual assault, sexual harassment, stalking, voyeurism, exhibitionism, verbal or physical sexuality-based threats or abuse, and intimate partner violence.

Title IX does not apply to female students only

Your school must be proactive in ensuring that your campus is free of sex discrimination.

Schools may not discourage survivors from continuing their education, such as telling them to “take time off” or forcing them to quit a team, club or class. You have the right to remain on campus and have every educational program and opportunity available to you.

Your school must have an established procedure for handling complaints of sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence.

Every school must have a Title IX Coordinator who manages complaints. If you decide to file a complaint, your school must promptly investigate it regardless of whether you report to the police. A school may not wait for the conclusion of a criminal proceeding and should conclude its own investigation within a semester’s time. The school should use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard to determine the outcome of a complaint, meaning discipline should result if it is more likely than not that discrimination, harassment and/or violence occurred. The final decision should be provided to you and the accused in writing. Both of you have the right to appeal the decision.

Your school must take immediate action to ensure a victim can continue their education free of ongoing sex discrimination, sexual harassment or sexual violence.

Your school may not retaliate against someone filing a complaint and must keep a victim safe from other retaliatory harassment or behavior. 

Your school can issue a no contact directive under Title IX to prevent the accused student from approaching or interacting with you.

In cases of sexual violence, your college is prohibited from encouraging or allowing mediation (rather than a formal hearing) of the complaint.

Your college should not make you pay the costs of certain accommodations that you require in order to continue your education after experiencing violence.