Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Reviewing: "Crime Victim's Guide to Justice--3rd Edition" by Mary L. Boland
While being the victim of crime can be dramatized on TV and in the movies, when you or your loved one is the victim in real life it is a far different situation. Not just because so much is depicted incorrectly or factually wrong on television and in the movies, but because the situation is now very personal and can have ramifications in a variety of ways. This book is designed to help readers navigate the labyrinth of the Criminal Justice System.
After a brief introduction covering the contents of the book, Chapter One addresses the topic of "The Victim in The Criminal Justice System." Basic terms such as "Bail Conditions, Preliminary Hearing, Continuances" etc. are briefly defined and explained in relation to victim rights as the case moves through the system. While each state has some variation regarding how it classifies victim rights, Attorney at Law Mary L Boland states that the right to notice of the case and participate, the right to be protected, the right to compensation and restitution, among others are universally accepted in every state in the country.
Of course, the victim as well as the victim's loved ones may be too traumatized by the impact of the crime to be proactively involved. "Getting Help" is the theme of Chapter Two which briefly discusses victim-assistance programs, crisis counseling, and the crime victim advocate among other resources.
Chapter Three provides a layman's view of "Understanding Criminal Law." Types of crimes are defined as are their elements along with the idea that what is classified one way in one state may be classified very differently in another state. Different types of defenses such as entrapment, insanity, etc are also considered along with evidence witness rules.
Chapter Four "The Police" is all about reporting the crime and how law enforcement works a case.
"Charging the Crime" is the theme of Chapter Five which is all about Prosecutors and how they determine what charges to file.
Sometimes "Plea Bargaining" comes up. This topic is covered in Chapter Seven which explains the types of plea bargains and the procedures.
"Criminal Trial" is the theme of Chapter Eight which explains how a trial is done in all aspects.
"After the Trial" is the theme for Chapter Nine which explains how sentencing, imprisonment (various types), probation, etc. all work and how a victim can be part of that process.
Privacy is important and Chapter Ten considers the issue of "Victim Privacy in the Criminal Justice System." The chapter gives a very basic overview of the issue.
Chapter Eleven looks at "Recovering Your Losses" through "Crime Victim Compensation, Restitution and Other Ways" Civil Court is an option which was taken by the Goldman family after the first O. J. Simpson murder trial. Comparisons between criminal court and civil court are made along possible outcomes. There is also a very brief consideration of the O. J. Simpson civil case.
Chapter Twelve further explores the idea in "The Civil Law Suit." After explaining the advantages and disadvantages, the chapter moves into procedures, level of proof, and the basics of a civil suit among other issues.
Lawyers are fundamentally a part of the system and they finally get their own discussion in Chapter Thirteen titled "The Role of Lawyers." How to find a lawyer, select a lawyer and working with your lawyer are all covered.
The book concludes with a sixteen page glossary, a twelve page index of victim resources by state and nation, a four page index of victim rights and various short appendices on how to do legal research, manage the case, and sample forms. A six page index completes the 172 page book along with a one page author bio.
This third edition released last year provides a simplistic catch all overview of the criminal justice system. As such and as noted in the book, things vary tremendously from state to state. While it may assist readers with having an idea regarding the basic terms and general issues, it lacks specifety for a specific state or locality. Chapters are short and have little depth because the book is a general reference and not tied down to any sate or locality and does not consider any issue at depth. Therefore, for folks that have a basic understanding of the system, this legal reference guide will be of little assistance as it is designed and written for people who have no understanding of the system at all.
Crime Victim's Guide to Justice—3rd Edition
Mary L. Boland
Sphinx Publishing (Sourcebooks, Inc.)
This material was provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple © 2009