/ Blog Post
In 2018, 33,890 crimes were reported in Washington, D.C. This number is significant, when you consider the impact beyond the victims—crime has a ripple effect it touches not just the victim but their family, friends, neighborhood, and community.
In a recent presentation to Equal Justice Works staff, Heba spoke about the importance of her work as a crime victims’ rights attorney. Heba explained that the prosecutor represents the government, and while the prosecutor wants to obtain justice on behalf of the crime victim, they are ultimately beholden to the interests of their boss—the government. A victim’s attorney, on the other hand, represents the crime victim’s interests.
The District of Columbia grants victims the right to seek restitution, which requires the defendant to compensate the victim for damages that result directly from the crime. For example, during an assault on one of Heba’s clients, the defendant stole the client’s iPhone, and Heba helped the client receive restitution in order to purchase a replacement iPhone. Often times, victims do not know that they have a right to request restitution. Although prosecutors are required under applicable laws to advise victims of their right to seek restitution, there may be instances in which the government does not desire to include restitution in the plea agreement. In those situations, the victim’s attorneys, like Heba, play a critical role seeking restitution on behalf of their client.
Crime victims’ rights attorneys also ensure that their clients can exercise their right to be heard. This right requires judges to consider a victim’s perspective during various court proceedings, including at the sentencing. One example Heba shared involved a client whose daughter was the victim of homicide, and the client was very disappointed by the plea agreement reached between the government and the defendant. To ensure her voice was heard by the court, Heba helped the client draft and deliver a powerful victim impact statement during the sentencing hearing, to convey to the court the impact of the crime on her daughter and her family. The mother’s statement moved the judge and affected the defendant’s sentencing. Without a victims’ rights attorney, the mother might have never been able to have her voice heard by the court.
“Survivors have a voice, but sometimes they need someone to amplify that voice. That is where I think my role is,” says Heba.
CVJC is supported by an award from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, Award Number 2017-MU-MU-K131, and private funding. Fellows’ salaries and fringe benefits are determined by their host organization. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
To learn more about Heba and her project, visit her profile.
Survivors have a voice, but sometimes they need someone to amplify that voice. That is where I think my role is.
Heba Estafanous /
Equal Justice Works Fellow