What are my legal rights?
There are many things to consider when thinking about your next steps after experiencing a sexual assault. One of the things on your mind could be your legal rights. What do they look like in Colorado? What does it mean to participate in the criminal justice system? I need a lawyer?
Although we can’t answer all of those questions here, we can provide you with general information and connect you to resources to answer any legal questions you may have.
Colorado Victim Rights Act
Recognizing survivors are an inherent part of the criminal justice process, the voters of Colorado passed a resolution in November 1992 to include Victim Rights as a part of the State’s Constitution. The Victim Rights Act (VRA) followed the constitutional amendment, becoming state law in 1993. The VRA has been amended several times, most recently in 2019. The VRA mandates Law Enforcement, the Office of the District Attorney, the Courts, Corrections, and Parole and Probation to provide certain information and rights to victims of violent crime. Sexual assault is one of the crimes covered by the VRA. Victims have the right to be heard when relevant (as defined by statute), and to be informed about and present at all critical stages of the criminal justice system.
Civil versus Criminal Processes
There are two legal processes available to you. One is the criminal justice process, which includes working with the police to investigate your sexual assault. This process can be lengthy may include the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrator. The second, is the civil legal process and this involves you hiring an attorney and suing the perpetrator or other parties you believe responsible for your assault in civil court. The outcomes of these types of cases usually involve some kind of monetary compensation to account for the actual and emotional costs you have experienced from the sexual assault.
To learn more about your options in the criminal justice process, talk to a community or systems-based advocate. For information on what the civil process looks like and what remedies it may offer you, contact Colorado LINC. Colorado LINC stands for the Legal Information Network of Colorado and is a collaborative network of confidential, free legal information services available to crime victims in the Denver metro area.
Another great resource for you is the Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center (RMVLC). This agency offers survivors of violent crime free legal assistance and assistance in enforcing your rights under the Colorado VRA.
One of the options available to you is a civil protection order (you may know it as a restraining order). If you have a criminal case and the perpetrator has been arrested, there is likely a mandatory criminal protection order in place. This order will stay in place for the duration of the criminal process. If charges are not filed against the perpetrator by the district attorney, or the case is resolved another way, the criminal mandatory protection order will go away. Therefore, you may want to consider applying for a civil protection order. Protection orders are issued by the court and prohibit a perpetrator from contacting you or people you know. A community or systems-based advocate can help you with this process. Visit our resource map to find a resource near you.
Colorado also affords survivors of sexual assault some rights related to their housing safety. In 2017, Colorado passed a law enabling survivors of sexual assault to break a lease if they are concerned for their safety. You do not need a police report to access this option. Speak to a community or systems-based advocate for assistance with this process or contact Colorado LINC for more information on next steps.
Title IX: Sex Discrimination in Education
If you experienced your sexual assault in an educational context (K-12 and college/university), you have rights under the federal Title IX legislation that prohibits discrimination in education based on sex. This includes sexual harassment and sexual assault. Please refer back to your school or college/university for more information on the services and complaint processes available to you. Some colleges/universities have campus-based advocates available to assist you or you can speak to a community-based advocate. The Rocky Mountain Victim Law Center also has a Title IX program to assist you in understanding your rights in this context.
If you are an immigrant, you do have rights. You can visit our resource map to search for immigration resources near you. There are several agencies equipped to assist you with understanding the legal system as it relates to your victimization and immigration status.