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11th Circuit Rules That Crime Victims’ Act Is Not Triggered Unless Criminal Charges Have Been Filed

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 In mid-April, the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court made a decision upholding the non-prosecution agreement entered into between Jeffrey Epstein and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, which also effectively decided that the Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA) was never in effect and Epstein’s victims did not have the right to be involved in his plea agreements because no federal charges were ever filed against him in Florida. This decision is important in that it assures criminal suspects that the CVRA is never triggered unless the government files charges or otherwise commences criminal proceedings against them.

How Attorneys Enter into Non-Prosecution Agreements

Once (that) the police and FBI had gathered substantial evidence against Epstein concerning a number of alleged sex offenses he had been accused of, they referred the matter for prosecution to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. At that time, Epstein’s criminal defense attorneys engaged in negotiations with these federal prosecutors in an effort to avoid indictment, while the prosecutors also corresponded with Epstein’s alleged victims to gather additional information. Eventually, Epstein and the prosecutors entered into a non-prosecution agreement, which provided for Epstein to plead guilty to state prostitution offenses in Florida court and, in exchange, to receive immunity from federal prosecution.

Although Sometimes Unfair, The Court Is Required to Follow the Statutory Language

Due to the nature of the offenses alleged against Epstein, the Eleventh Circuit’s decision was arguably considered to be unfair by a number of parties; not only by his victims, but also by several justices on the court, who expressed frustration with the particular prosecutors involved in this case, indicating that they had arguably misled the victims through their actions. Still, the court also rightfully pointed out that it cannot extend the CVRA beyond what Congress intended by allowing for Epstein’s victims to challenge a non-prosecution agreement that was reached between Epstein and federal prosecutors, as this was not intended under the law.

Decision Leaves Open Door for Private Negotiations Between Prosecutors & Defense

Several of the victims have already announced that they plan to file a petition for rehearing en banc with the Eleventh Circuit, arguing that the decision conflicts with an earlier ruling out of the Fifth Circuit. Still, if left in place, the decision will have effectively closed the door to victims being involved in plea arrangements under these circumstances, allowing prosecutors to continue to negotiate directly with criminal suspects and their attorneys without involving outside parties if criminal proceedings have not yet been instituted. 

If You Are Facing Criminal Charges in South Florida, Contact West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer William Wallshein

If you have been charged with an offense in South Florida, you should contact dedicated West Palm Beach criminal attorney William Wallshein, P.A. right away in order to ensure that your rights are protected. After practicing criminal law in Florida for more than 36 years, some of which were in the prosecutor’s office, I have a keen understanding of how local prosecutors often try to take advantage of the circumstances in these types of cases. Contact my firm today to schedule a free initial consultation to find out more.

Resources:

orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2020/04/14/federal-appeals-court-rules-epsteins-florida-victims-have-no-rights-under-the-crime-victims-rights-act

media.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/files/201913843.pdf

https://www.wallsheinlaw.com/supreme-court-opens-the-door-for-states-to-prosecute-illegal-immigrants-while-florida-fails-to-address-issue-of-inmates-serving-outdated-sentences-for-drug-crimes/

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