Part A: Case Volume Overloads.
It has been commonly known and is no secret that case volumes in court have increased among with crime due to the constant new laws being created, the lack of fear from the criminals and in some occasions the lack of procedure knowledge from the community with possible offenders. I’ve seen many cases that could be resolved with the appropriate guidance without the need to visit a court room. In occasions unnecessary complains contribute to case overloads. Court judges in occasion recur to sending these cases for review with a mediator to see if it may be solved after the parties have cooled down and are giving the proper advice before considering it a regular case for sentencing. In other occasions court administrators, prosecutors and judges prefer to go for plea bargains to help reduce case volumes and in other cases granted time to the parties so they can prepare themselves for the case or to obtain further documentation to avoid losing time during the next hearing moving the case for a date where they might not have such big overload.
Another option that the court administrators recur is to divide cases upon the crime in order to fit all short non complicated crimes in a day vs. having many complicated cases all together in one day since that would delay the case flow. While making my research for this assignment I found that states like Texas for the month of July 2009 found 423 felony cases from which a 10% had not been scheduled for a hearing; while in another state like North Carolina, the Supreme Court dismissed 18 criminal cases including felonies dismissing more than 250 misdemeanors and felonies that were on appeal because there was not enough judges to hear the cases failing to follow proper due process procedures leading criminals to be dismissed. I also read that in Miami-Dade, there was a case hearing Public Defender, 11th Judicial Circuit of Florida v. State were a motion was filed to be relieved from the obligations to represent non-capital cases claiming the public defendant excessive case overloads causing improper solutions when representing the parties.
At first the trial court determined that the public Defender’s caseload was excessive by any reasonable standard and that this excessive caseload only allowed the Public Defender to provide minimally competent representation and granted permits so the public defender could decline appointments in the future for third-degree felony cases, whoever the Public Defender was still required to represent those defendants through arraignment. They had to appeal and at the end the Miami-Dade County, FL granted the public defender the right to refuse new cases due to case overload. I understand that they have obtain success addressing this matter but the system still has plenty of space for improvement since much cases take over 3-6months to be closed, but at the same time I understand that the primary administrators are doing as much as they can to have a speedy trial and shorten the waiting process in order to lower the case volume.
I understand that the court administrators have created the pre-trail in order to filter the cases and set them into categories for the ones that are found probable cause, which is good to help reduce the case overload since not all cases are to proceed. A step that I understand would help both the community and the system here in Puerto Rico would be creating the specialized courts upon their categories like the ones presented in many of the reaming states of the USA since this will not only create and give more space for employment but will also help filter the cases breaking down and spreading the case volumes for that one judge doesn’t have to hear all the cases himself this offering also a better health for all the criminal justice panels since they would not have all the stress and nonstop hours of work as the do at the moment which in many occasions can cause to wrong sentences, health issues, re-entry of the offenders and not least important the confidence of the community jeopardizing the fairness of our justice system and even resulting in more and longer prison sentences. Part B: Victims’ rights in Puerto Rico
All of the states and the federal government have created laws and acts to help establish and preserve certain rights for the victims, known as the Victims Right of Crime. These laws are made to establish resources for the victims of crimes to have; they offer valuable information, protections and their roles in a criminal justice process. The rights are going to depend on the jurisdiction where the crime is investigated as of the state, federal, military installation or tribal government (tribal government does not apply in Puerto Rico). A victim is the person who has been harmed by a crime when it has been committed by someone else. In some states, the family members of a homicide, parent or guardian can exercise these rights in behalf of the victim. I have looked for the victims right of crime here in Puerto Rico since it is where I live and found that it slightly varies from others found for other states such as Texas since Texas stated that the victim has 10 days from filing charges for the prosecutor to notify his rights including a time frame with date and location of the hearing and the right to be present in court is subjected to the judge’s discretion.
All of this while in another state such as Georgia, the victim has the right to express his/her opinion on disposition, and could file an objections towards parole. I found the victims right of crime in Puerto Rico to be one of the largest with 16 sections, for what I have included them below for review. In Puerto Rico, the victim’s rights of crime are the same as most of other states being the right to: Be treated compassionately.
Free access to a telephone to communicate with his family or next of kin or with his legal counsel, as soon as he is in contact with the criminal justice system. Address and telephone numbers may be kept confidential when necessary for safety. Communications privilege for victim and his counsel.
Right to protection from harm.
Right to inform on medical, psychological, social and financial assistance programs that are available in the common wealth of Puerto Rico. Be notified of the development of the investigation, proceedings and sentencing of the defendant. Be consulted prior to settling a complaint.
Be present at all stages of the proceedings allowed by law. Entitled to separated waiting area.
Right to make a victim impact statement to the court.
Right to leave from employment to participate in criminal justice proceedings. Right to restitution.
Right to return of property taken as evidence.
Special procedures for minors and those with disabilities.
Right to make victim impact statement at parole proceedings. I understand all of these rights impact the process of law since this gives the victim confident towards their security, it gives a breath of hope that the case would fairly be heard and that the victim is not alone since there exist different type of assistance to which the victim is entitled to and in occasions they are not even aware that this exist. The victim has the right to be “treated with compassion”, that is something that is not always clear to the administrators and is not often received by the victim or at least I have not felt that in my personal experience.
From the victim’s right of crime act here in Puerto Rico I wouldn’t make any changes at the moment, I would rather focus on reinforcing them since I have seen that they are not being met as they should. I personally have been a victim of a crime and know people who have been and today was the first time I saw this act. I might add just to be more specific like other states, the section stating that any legal guardian could make these rights value in behalf of the victim if his is old, a minor, dead or disabled. I also understand that in many cases the victims would not want to revive the case they had for multiple reasons, but I will still add the option for the state to notify the victim upon the offender’s release, escape or death.
The National Center for Victims of Crimes. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/victims’-rights Texas Department of Criminal Justice. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.victimsofcrime.org/help-for-crime-victims/get-help-bulletins-for-crime-victims/victims’-rights United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico.. (http://www.justice.gov/usao/pr/). Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/usao/pr/programs_victimassistance.html