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Crime Victims - Protecting Victims

witnesses protection marshals federal

Many of the federal acts, beginning with the Victim and Witness Protection Act of 1982, not only recognized a victim's rights but provided protection to those who might feel threatened by the offender. Through these acts the U.S. attorney general had the authority to assist crime victims or witnesses A member of the witness protection program is allowed to keep his face covered as he testifies in court. The FBI helps create new identities and relocate people whose testimony puts their lives in danger. (© Bettmann/Corbis)
and their families in relocating to a new place of residence and to provide a new name and new identity. This included state as well as federal witnesses, and these responsibilities were carried by U.S. marshals.

Protection by marshals proved crucial to obtaining testimony from victims and witnesses, especially in organized crime, drug trafficking, and terrorism cases. It also protects victims and witnesses from pressures not to testify, such as bribery and threats of harm. By the early twenty-first century some seven thousand witnesses had been protected or relocated. Each state has similar laws, often leaving protection services to state police instead of U.S. marshals.

The ability to protect victims and witnesses became more difficult in the late 1990s. New computer technology made public and private records much more accessible to those who have the skills to search the Internet and hack into public sites. Witnesses and victims felt much less secure by the early twenty-first century.


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