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General Laws

Section 3. To provide victims a meaningful role in the criminal justice system, victims and witnesses of crime, or in the event the victim is deceased, the family members of the victim, shall be afforded the following basic and fundamental rights, to the greatest extent possible and subject to appropriation and to available resources, with priority for services to be provided to victims of crimes against the person and crimes where physical injury to a person results:

(a) for victims, to be informed by the prosecutor about the victim’s rights in the criminal process, including but not limited to the rights provided under this chapter. At the beginning of the criminal justice process, the prosecutor shall provide an explanation to the victim of how a case progresses through the criminal justice system, what the victim’s role is in the process, what the system may expect from the victim, why the system requires this, and, if the victim requests, the prosecutor shall periodically apprise the victim of significant developments in the case;

(b) for victims and family members, to be present at all court proceedings related to the offense committed against the victim, unless the victim or family member is to testify and the court determines that the person’s testimony would be materially affected by hearing other testimony at trial and orders the person to be excluded from the courtroom during certain other testimony;

(c) for victims and witnesses, to be notified by the prosecutor, in a timely manner, when a court proceeding to which they have been summoned will not go on as scheduled, provided that such changes are known in advance. In order to notify victims and witnesses, a form shall be provided to them by the prosecutor for the purpose of maintaining a current telephone number and address. The victim or witness shall thereafter maintain with the prosecutor a current telephone number and address;

(d) for victims and witnesses, to be provided with information by the prosecutor as to the level of protection available and to receive protection from the local law enforcement agencies from harm and threats of harm arising out of their cooperation with law enforcement and prosecution efforts;

(e) for victims, to be informed by the prosecutor of financial assistance and other social services available to victims, including information relative to applying for such assistance or services;

(f) for victims and witnesses, to a prompt disposition of the case in which they are involved as a victim or a witness;

(g) for victims, to confer with the prosecutor before the commencement of the trial, before any hearing on motions by the defense to obtain psychiatric or other confidential records, and before the filing of a nolle prosequi or other act by the commonwealth terminating the prosecution or before the submission of the commonwealth’s proposed sentence recommendation to the court. The prosecutor shall inform the court of the victim’s position, if known, regarding the prosecutor’s sentence recommendation. The right of the victim to confer with the prosecutor does not include the authority to direct the prosecution of the case;

(h) for victims and witnesses, to be informed of the right to request confidentiality in the criminal justice system. Upon the court’s approval of such request, no law enforcement agency, prosecutor, defense counsel, or parole, probation or corrections official may disclose or state in open court, except among themselves, the residential address, telephone number, or place of employment or school of the victim, a victim’s family member, or a witness, except as otherwise ordered by the court. The court may enter such other orders or conditions to maintain limited disclosure of the information as it deems appropriate to protect the privacy and safety of victims, victims’ family members and witnesses;

(i) for victims, family members and witnesses to be provided, by the court as provided in section 17 of chapter 211B, with a secure waiting area or room which is separate from the waiting area of the defendant or the defendant’s family, friends, attorneys or witnesses and separate from the district attorney’s office; provided, however, that the court shall designate a waiting area at each courthouse; and provided further, that designation of those areas shall be made in accordance with the implementation plan developed by the task force.

(j) for victims and witnesses, to be informed by the court and the prosecutor of procedures to be followed in order to apply for and receive any witness fee to which they are entitled;

(k) for victims and witnesses, to be provided, where appropriate, with employer and creditor intercession services by the prosecutor to seek employer cooperation in minimizing employees’ loss of pay and other benefits resulting from their participation in the criminal justice process, and to seek consideration from creditors if the victim is unable, temporarily, to continue payments;

(l) for victims or witnesses who have received a subpoena to testify, to be free from discharge or penalty or threat of discharge or penalty by his employer by reason of his attendance as a witness at a criminal proceeding. A victim or witness who notifies his employer of his subpoena to appear as a witness prior to his attendance, shall not on account of his absence from employment by reason of such witness service be subject to discharge or penalty by his employer. Any employer or agent of said employer who discharges or disciplines or continues to threaten to discharge or discipline a victim or witness because that victim or witness is subpoenaed to attend court for the purpose of giving testimony may be subject to the sanctions stated in section fourteen A of chapter two hundred and sixty-eight;

(m) for victims and witnesses, to be informed of the right to submit to or decline an interview by defense counsel or anyone acting on the defendant’s behalf, except when responding to lawful process, and, if the victim or witness decides to submit to an interview, the right to impose reasonable conditions on the conduct of the interview;

(n) for victims, to confer with the probation officer prior to the filing of the full presentence report. If the victim is not available or declines to confer, the probation officer shall record that information in the report. If the probation officer is not able to confer with the victim or the victim declines to confer, the probation officer shall note in the full presentence report the reason why the probation officer did not make contact with the victim;

(o) for victims, to request that restitution be an element of the final disposition of a case and to obtain assistance from the prosecutor in the documentation of the victim’s losses. If restitution is ordered as part of a case disposition, the victim has the right to receive from the probation department a copy of the schedule of restitution payments and the name and telephone number of the probation officer or other official who is responsible for supervising the defendant’s payments. If the offender seeks to modify the restitution order, the offender’s supervising probation officer shall provide notice to the victim and the victim shall have the right to be heard at any hearing relative to the proposed modification.

(p) for victims, to be heard through an oral and written victim impact statement at sentencing or the disposition of the case against the defendant about the effects of the crime on the victim and as to a recommended sentence, pursuant to section four B of chapter two hundred and seventy-nine, and to be heard at any other time deemed appropriate by the court. The victim also has a right to submit the victim impact statement to the parole board for inclusion in its records regarding the perpetrator of the crime;

(q) for victims, to be informed by the prosecutor of the final disposition of the case, including, where applicable, an explanation of the type of sentence imposed by the court and a copy of the court order setting forth the conditions of probation or other supervised or unsupervised release within thirty days of establishing the conditions, with the name and telephone number of the probation officer, if any, assigned to the defendant;

(r) for victims, to have any personal property that was stolen or taken for evidentiary purposes, except contraband, property subject to evidentiary analysis, and property the ownership of which is disputed, returned by the court, the prosecutor or law enforcement agencies within ten days of its taking or recovery if it is not needed for law enforcement or prosecution purposes or as expeditiously as possible when said property is no longer needed for law enforcement or prosecution purposes;

(s) for victims, to be informed by the parole board of information regarding the defendant’s parole eligibility and status in the criminal justice system;

(t) for victims, to be informed in advance by the appropriate custodial authority whenever the defendant receives a temporary, provisional or final release from custody, whenever a defendant is moved from a secure facility to a less-secure facility, and whenever the defendant escapes from custody. The victim shall be informed by the prosecutor about notification rights and the certification process required to access the criminal offender record information files. Persons requesting such notice must provide the appropriate authority with current information as to their address and telephone number;

(u) for victims, to be informed that the victim may have a right to pursue a civil action for damages relating to the crime, regardless of whether the court has ordered the defendant to make restitution to the victim.

(v) for one family member of a victim of a homicide, which the matter before the court is related, to possess in the courtroom a photograph, that is not of itself of an inflammatory nature, of the deceased victim that is not larger than eight by ten inches; provided, however, that at no time may the photograph be exposed or in anyway displayed in the presence of any member of the jury, or the jury pool from which a jury is to be selected in a particular matter; provided, further, that nothing in this section shall preclude the admission into evidence of a photograph that the court deems relevant and material.

(w) Where the victim or witness is an employee of the department of youth services, no law enforcement agency, prosecutor, defense counsel or parole, probation or corrections official shall disclose or state the residential address, telephone number or place of employment or school of the victim, a victim’s family member or a witness, except as otherwise ordered by the court. The court may enter such other orders or conditions to maintain limited disclosure of the information as it deems appropriate to protect the privacy and safety of victims, victims’ family members and witnesses.

There shall be conspicuously posted in all courthouses and police stations a summary of the rights afforded under this section. The victim and witness assistance board, pursuant to section 4, shall devise and provide posters to satisfy this requirement to court officials and police station personnel, and, upon request and at the discretion of the office and board, to any other institution or organization to post and maintain in space accessible to the general public. The board shall develop such posters in a variety of languages as determined by the Massachusetts office for victim assistance. Upon request, the board will respond, to the extent possible, to any requests for additional language translations of such posters.

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