In the course of my practice, beginning with some elderly people I represented years ago who were victims of theft by swindle by a close relative, I realized that there are situations where crime victims sometimes need their own independent attorney.  In the case involving the elderly people, they did not want the restitution that the prosecutor wanted their relative to pay.  These people were of sound mind and did not want the money because of their age and strongly held religious beliefs.  The prosecution worked very hard to subvert their wishes no matter what they said or did.  These people have all passed away now.  Before they died, the prosecution appealed the district court’s order agreeing with them and got it reversed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.  At the time, I was really torn about whether to advise them to spend more of their money to keep them from getting money they did not want.  Looking back, I regret not suggesting more strongly that I write an amicus brief (“friend of the court” brief) on their behalf in the Minnesota Court of Appeals.  They all died with their wishes not fulfilled as a result of an overzealous prosecutor’s office.  The relative who found me to represent these people found the conduct of the other relative absolutely reprehensible, but nevertheless fulfilled the request of these kind elderly people with such strong faith to find them an attorney, which ended up being me.  The lesson of this story is that the prosecutor’s interest is not always aligned with the interest of crime victims, and can sometimes be adverse to these interests.

In domestic violence cases, alleged victims often make contact with a “domestic violence advocate,” when they go to court.  This “advocate” is funded by government and organizations that are funded by the government.  These “advocates” are not attorneys who are subject to the rules and professional obligations of attorneys.  Also, they are never identified on the court record by name or address, so if any other party wants to serve anything on everyone involved, they cannot be reached.  If a victim has a real attorney, they will absolutely receive all information relating to the case available to them.

In my experience, oftentimes these “advocates” do not advocate for the alleged victim, but rather “advocate” for the interests of the prosecution, which as I set forth in the above real life example, is not always necessarily the same as the interest of the prosecutor.  For instance, in my experience, if an alleged domestic violence victim wants a “no-contact” order lifted, their “advocate” will ignore and/or oppose this request.  Therefore, they are not true advocates.  Attorneys have duties to clients.  If an attorney is asked by a client to do something that is legitimate and legal, they will attempt to do it and not ignore the client or oppose the client’s request.

Alleged crime victims may also have their own concerns about their role in the process and their rights, including the U.S. Constitutional right against self-incrimination, if potentially applicable.  Communications between and attorney and a client are strictly privileged unless the client says otherwise.  An “advocate” who is not an attorney does not have this same legal duty to the crime victim client.

If you are alleged to be a victim of a crime or know someone who might need such representation, please feel free to contact me at 651-704-9600.