History of Victims’ Rights in America

This is a historical overview of crime victims’ rights in the United States. To see the full list from 1974-2013 click here (PDF).


  • U.S. Congress passed the strongest federal crime victims’ legislation in nation’s history after failure to approve a Federal Constitutional Amendment; H.R. 5107, The Justice For All Act of 2004, strengthens the rights of victims of federal crimes and provides enforcement and remedies when there is failure to comply; Title 1 is named in honor of five victims: Scott Campbell,
  • Stephanie Roper, Wendy Preston, Louarna Gillis and Nila Lynn; H.R. 5107 also includes provisions for DNA analysis backlog
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee passes the Federal Victims’ Rights Constitutional Amendment: “But The House Fails to Take Action”


  • The Office for Victims of Crime celebrates its 20th anniversary of service
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee passes the Federal Victims’ Rights Constitutional Amendment: “But The House Fails to Take Action”
  • Congress makes the Office on Violence Against Women a permanent independent office
  • The Protect Act of 2003 (Amber Alert) creates a national network of AMBER (America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) to facilitate rapid law enforcement & community response to kidnapped or abducted children
  • Congress passes the Prison Rape Elimination Act to address the issue of rape in correctional institutions


  • All 50 states, District of Columbia, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, & Guam have established crime victim compensation programs
  • The National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators is created and OVC sponsors
  • The National Public Awareness & Education Campaign to promote the scope & availability of victims’ rights & services nationwide, offers the first “Helping Outreach Programs to Expand” grants to grassroots, non-profit, community- based victim organizations to improve services & sponsors regional roundtables for victims
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $519 million


  • Congress responds to the 9/11 terrorist acts with new laws providing tax relief, compensation, funding for new services & civil claims as part of the Air & Transportation Safety & System Stabilization Act & the USA Patriot Act of 2001
  • The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 is passed with some expanded funding & services
  • The Child Abuse prevention & Enforcement Act & Jennifer’s Law allows use of Byrne grant funds for prevention & costs of entering victims in FBI’s NCIC database
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $544 million


  • The Violence Against Women Act of 2000 is signed into law by President Clinton
  • The Internet Fraud Complaint Center website, is created by the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, & the National White Collar Crime Center
  • The Federal Victims’ Rights Constitutional Amendment (SJR 3) is addressed in the full Senate, but later withdrawn because of insufficient votes for approval
  • The U.S. Congress passes a new national drunk driving limit if 0.08
  • The Victims of Trafficking & Violence Protection Act (for immigrant victims) is passed
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $777 million


  • SJR 3, the Federal Victims’ Rights Constitutional Amendment is introduced before the 106th Congress
  • The Victim Restitution Enforcement Act is introduced requiring mandatory restitution
  • Violence Against Women Act II is introduced before Congress
  • OVC issues first grants to create State Victim Assistance Academies
  • The National Crime Victim Bar association is formed by the National Center for Victims of Crime
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $985 million


  • A new bipartisan version of the federal Victims’ Rights Amendment (SJ Res 44) is introduced with passage in the Senate Judiciary Committee, but no House action
  • Four new states pass state victims’ rights constitutional amendments: Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana & Tennessee
  • The Higher Education Amendments of 1998 is passed to address binge drinking & illegal alcohol consumption on college campuses
  • The Child Protection & Sexual Predator Punishment Act is enacted, providing sentencing enhancements & addressing sex crimes against children
  • The Crime Victims with Disabilities Act is passed to gather information about the extent of individuals with developmental disabilities
  • The Identity Theft & Deterrence Act is passed outlaws identity theft & directs the Sentencing Commission to consider factors in determining penalties, to acknowledge reports & to provide victims with information
  • The Federal Crime Victim funds deposits total $324 million


  • A federal victims’ rights constitutional amendment is re-introduced in the 105th Congress with strong bipartisan support
  • In June, President Clinton reaffirms support of the victims’ rights amendment in a Rose Garden Ceremony
  • A federal anti-stalking law is enacted by Congress
  • Congress passes the Victims’ Rights Clarification Act to clarify existing federal law allowing victims to attend & provide victim impact during sentencing in both capital & non-capital cases, specifically to address the needs of the Oklahoma City bombing
  • The Federal Crime Victim Fund reaches its 2nd highest year in funding collections with total deposits of $363 million
  • OVC publishes New Directions from the Field: Victims’ Rights & Services for the 21st Century & launches its homepage, www.ojp.usdoj.gov/ovc


  • Federal Victims’ Rights Constitutional Amendments are introduced in both houses of Congress with bipartisan support
  • Eight states ratify passage of constitutional amendments raising the total number to 29
  • The Community Notification Act, “Megan’s Law”, provides notification to communities of the location of convicted sex offenders by amendment to the National Child Sexual Abuse Registry Law
  • President Clinton signs the Antiterrorism & Effective Death Penalty Act, providing strengthened antiterrorism efforts, making restitution mandatory in violent crime cases, & expanding compensation & assistance to victims of terrorism at home & abroad
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline is established to provide crisis intervention
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $ 525 million
  • The VOCA definition of “crime victim” is expanded to include victims of financial crime, allowing for counseling, advocacy & support services
  • The Church Arson Prevention Act is signed into law
  • The Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention issues the Juvenile Justice Action Plan for rights & services to victims of juvenile offenders
  • The Drug-induced Rape Prevention Act is enacted to address the issue of drug facilitated rape & sexual assault


  • The U.S. Department of Justice issues Attorney General Guidelines for victim & witness assistance
  • The National Victims’ Constitutional Amendment Network proposes the first draft of language for a federal constitutional amendment for victims’ rights
  • The first class graduates from the National Victim Assistance Academy in Washington, D.C.
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $233 million


  • Six states pass constitutional amendments for victims’ rights (largest number in one year): Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Maryland, Ohio & Utah
  • Kentucky becomes the first state to institute automated telephone voice notification to crime victims of their offender’s release status
  • President Clinton signs a comprehensive package of federal victims’ rights legislation as part of the Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act that includes:
  • Violence Against Women Act
  • Enhanced VOCA funding
  • Enhanced sentences for drunk drivers with child passengers
  • Establishment of a National Child Sex Offender Registry
  • The American Correctional Association Victims Committee publishes Report & Recommendations on Victims of Juvenile Crime
  • The Federal Crime Victim Fund deposits total $185 million
  • OVC establishes the Community Crisis Response Program to improve services to communities experiencing multiple victimizations


  • President Clinton signs the “Brady Bill” requiring a waiting period for handgun purchases
  • Congress passes the Child Sexual Abuse Registry Act, establishing a national repository for information about child sex offenders
  • Wisconsin ratifies its constitutional amendment for victims’ rights bringing the total to 14 states with amendments
  • 22 states pass anti-stalking statutes bringing the total number to 50 plus the District of Columbia
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $144 million


  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $221 million
  • Five states: Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri & New Mexico ratify constitutional amendments for victims’ rights
  • The Battered Women’s Testimony Act, which urges states to accept expert testimony in cases involving battered women is passed
  • Massachusetts approves a bill creating a statewide computerized domestic violence registry
  • 28 states pass anti-stalking legislation
  • The U.S. Congress re-authorizes the Higher Education Bill which includes the campus Sexual Assault Victims Bill of Rights
  • The Association of Paroling Authorities, International establishes a Victim issues Committee
  • The U.S. Supreme Court in R.A.V.v City of St. Paul strikes down a local hate crime ordinance in Minnesota


  • The U.S Supreme Court in Payne v Tennessee reverses its earlier decisions & rules that testimony & prosecutorial arguments on the victim’s good character & victim impact statements do not violate the defendant’s constitutional rights
  • U.S. Representative Ilena Ros-Lehtinen files the First Congressional Joint Resolution to place victims’ rights in the constitution
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $128 million
  • The U.S. Attorney general issues comprehensive guidelines for the treatment of federal crime victims
  • The American Probation & Parole Association establishes a Victim issues Committee addressing concerns related to community corrections
  • The InterNational parental Child Kidnapping Act makes the unlawful removing of a child outside the U.S. a federal felony
  • The New Jersey constitutional amendment is passed & ratified by voters Colorado introduces & passes a constitutional amendment in 15 days
  • OVC provides funding for the National Victim Center for Civil Legal Remedies for crime victims
  • The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Simon & Schuster v New York Crime Victims Board that New York’s notoriety-for-profit statute was overly broad & unconstitutional


  • Congress passes the Hate Crime Statistics Act requiring collection of data for crimes motivated by racial, religious, ethnic or sexual orientation prejudice
  • The Student Right-to-Know & Campus Security Act is passed requiring institutions of higher learning to disclose crime information
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $146 million
  • The Arizona constitutional amendment is placed on the ballot & is ratified
  • The National Child Search Assistance Act requires law enforcement to enter missing children reports in NCIC computer
  • The Victims’ Rights & Restitution Act incorporates a Bill of Rights for federal crime victims & codifies services that should be available to them
  • Congress passes legislation proposed by MADD to prevent drunk drivers & other offenders from filing bankruptcy to avoid paying restitution or civil fines
  • The Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1980 is passed & requires reforms to make the federal system less traumatic for child victims & witnesses


  • Texas & Washington pass state constitutional amendments
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $133 million
  • The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirms in South Carolina v Gathers that victim impact statements violate the 8th amendment when applied to the penalty phase in capital cases


  • Constitutional Amendments are introduced in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, South Carolina & Washington; Florida & Michigan amendments are passed
  • VOCA amendments legislatively establish the Office for Victims of Crime, induce state compensation programs to cover victims of domestic violence, homicide & drunk driving & new priority category for funding victim assistance to include previously underserved victims of violent crime
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $93 million
  • The National Aging Resource Cenet in Elder Abuse is established
  • OVC sets aside funds for the Victim Assistance in Indian Country grant program
  • The Federal Drunk Driving Prevention Act is passed raising the minimum drinking age to 21
  • OVC establishes a Federal Emergency Fund for victims in the federal criminal justice system


  • The National Victims’ Constitutional Amendment Network (NVCAN) & Steering Committee are formed
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $77 million
  • Security on Campus, Inc. is established to raise awareness about crime & victimization on our nation’s campuses
  • The American Correctional Association establishes a Task Force on Victims of Crime
  • National Domestic Violence Awareness Month is designated to commemorate battered women
  • U.S. Supreme Court rules in 5-4 decision in Booth v Maryland that victim impact statements are unconstitutional & in violation of the 8th Amendment
  • Florida advocates conduct successful petition campaign to get constitutional amendment on the 1988 ballot


  • The National Center for Victims of Crime is founded (originally named to honor Sunny von Bulow) to promote the rights & needs of crime victims
  • The United Nations General Assembly passes the International Declaration on the Rights of Victims of Crime & the Abuse of Power
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $68 million


  • NOVA convenes a forum to refine a national plan to secure state constitutional amendments for crime victims
  • Rhode Island passes a constitutional amendment granting victims rights to restitution, victim impact statements & to be treated with dignity & respect
  • The Federal Crime Victims Fund deposits total $62 million
  • Victim compensation programs have been established in 35 states


  • The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) is passed & establishes the Crime Victims Fund from federal criminal fines & penalties to support state victim compensation & service programs
  • President Reagon signs Justice Assistance Act which establishes financial & support assistance to state & local governments
  • The National Minimum Drinking Age Act is enacted
  • The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is created
  • The Spiritual Dimension in Victim Services is founded to involve faith communities in victim services
  • U.S. Congress passes the Family Violence Prevention & Services Act to fund domestic violence programs
  • The ad hoc committee on the constitutional amendment formalizes plans to secure passage of state amendments
  • Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS) is organized for survivors of officers killed in the line of duty
  • First National Symposium on Sexual Assault is co-sponsored by OVC & FBI to create awareness on federal level for needs of rape & sexual assault victims
  • A victim/witness notification system is established within the Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • Victim/witness coordinator positions are established in the U.S. Attorney’s offices
  • First Victim Services Certification Program is established at California State University
  • OVC establishes the Office for Victims of Crime Resource Center


  • The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) was created by U.S. Department of Justice to implement recommendations from the President’s task Force
  • The U.S. Attorney General established a Task Force on Family Violence
  • President Reagon honors crime victims in First White House Rose Garden ceremony
  • First National Conference of the Judiciary on Victims of Crime held at National Judicial College in Reno
  • Wisconsin passes First Child Victim & Witness Bill of Rights
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police adopts Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights


  • President Reagan appoints the Task Force on Victims of Crime – Final Report offers 68 recommendations to improve the treatment of crime victims, including an amendment to the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to guarantee victims’ rights to be present & heard at critical stages of judicial proceedings
  • The Federal Victim & Witness Protection Act is passed
  • California’s Proposition 8 is passed to guarantee restitution & other statutory reforms for crime victims
  • The Missing Children’s Act is passed by Congress to help find missing children through FBI National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer system


  • President Ronald Reagan proclaims the First “Crime Victims’ Rights Week” in April


  • Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) founded
  • Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act passed by U.S. Congress
  • First Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights passed in Wisconsin


  • Crime Victims’ Legal Advocacy Institute founded by Frank Carrington – later renamed the Victims’ Assistance Legal Organization (VALOR) to promote victims’ rights in the civil & criminal justice systems


  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is formed & initiates the introduction of the Family Violence Prevention & Services Act in U.S. Congress


  • The National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards is established


  • First Victim impact statement created in California


  • First Victims’ Rights Week organized by the Philadelphia District Attorney
  • National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) founded to expand victims’ rights & services


  • The federal law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) funded the first victim/witness programs in Brooklyn and Milwaukee District Attorney’s offices


  • First Crime victim compensation program established in California (Maryland’s program created in 1972)