Criminal Victims’ Rights

Sanford Heisler Sharp's Criminal/Sexual Violence Practice Group, led by Co-Chairs Christine Dunn and Carolin Guentert, has a strong record of victim advocacy.

How We Can Help Survivors

For survivors of crime, the criminal justice process is often confusing and overwhelming. Our attorneys help ensure that a survivor’s rights in the criminal justice process are respected, including, but not limited to:

  • The right to be represented by an attorney who can protect the survivor’s rights and interests during the criminal process;
  • The right to be protected from the perpetrator at all stages of the process;
  • The right to privacy—including the right to remain anonymous, the right to avoid disclosure of personal information, and the right to remain free of harassment;
  • The right to be informed of all significant events in the criminal process;
  • The right to be heard in any proceeding involving release, plea, sentencing, parole, or any proceeding in which a survivor’s rights are implicated;
  • The right to be consulted prior to the state’s entry of a plea agreement;
  • The right to financial compensation from the perpetrator (called criminal “restitution,” which is imposed by the court as part of the perpetrator’s sentence); and
  • The right to be treated with dignity and respect.

Representing Individual Crime Victims

Sanford Heisler Sharp attorneys are currently serving clients as victim advocates in the following matters:

The family of murder victim Hae Min Lee

Firm Chairman David Sanford is representing the family of Hae Min Lee, whose murder drew international attention in 2014 as the subject of the blockbuster true-crime podcast “Serial,” which cast doubt on the investigation and evidence that led to the 2000 conviction of Adnan Syed, Lee’s ex-boyfriend and classmate at Woodlawn High School.

After the podcast, the Baltimore City State Attorney’s office re-opened the case, conducting a yearlong investigation without informing the Lee family. Ultimately, citing new evidence, prosecutors asked the judge to vacate Syed’s conviction but gave the Lee family only two days’ notice to appear at a court hearing. The request to vacate the conviction was granted and Syed was released from prison. Representing Young Lee, Hae Min Lee’s brother, David worked to protect the rights of the victim’s family by filing an appeal with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, arguing that the victim’s family had not been given a meaningful opportunity to be heard. The family asked for a new vacatur hearing and that any new evidence in the Syed case be made public.

The Maryland Constitution and victims’ rights statutes require that crime victims and their families be treated with “dignity, respect, and sensitivity during all phases of the criminal justice process.” This includes giving crime victims and/or their families “reasonable notice” to appear in court, comment on evidence, and have their voices heard. David argued that the Lee family was deprived of these rights when both the State Attorney’s office and the circuit court effectively cut them out of the hearing to vacate Syed’s conviction.

In November 2022, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals granted the Lee family’s request to pursue an appeal in the hopes of obtaining a new evidentiary hearing where their voices can be heard.

The victim of sexual assault by a teacher at a New Hampshire boarding school

Christine Dunn represented a former student at Phillips Exeter Academy in Concord, New Hampshire, who was groomed and sexually abused by a teacher, beginning when she was a 14-year-old freshman at the boarding school.

Szczesny “Jerzy” Kaminski was a longtime teacher at Phillips Exeter until he was fired in 2020. On Jan. 13, 2023, Kaminski pleaded guilty in Rockingham (N.H.) Superior Court to aggravated felonious sexual assault and misdemeanor sexual assault and was sentenced to at least 12 years in prison. Kaminski had initially pleaded guilty to the charges a year earlier before withdrawing his plea.

As a victim-centered attorney, Christine has been by her client’s side from the beginning of the criminal justice process, including guiding the victim, now an adult, through the difficult initial step of reporting the abuse to the police. Christine advocated for the victim’s best interests during the criminal investigation and was present during interviews with the prosecutor. Christine’s advocacy continued as the case moved to the courtroom, ensuring that the victim’s privacy rights were protected and guiding her through writing a victim’s impact statement, which the victim read in court at her abuser’s sentencing hearing.

Lobbying for Greater Protections for Crime Victims

In addition to representing individual crime victims, attorneys at Sanford Heisler Sharp have lobbied for stronger laws to protect all crime victims. Sanford Heisler Sharp attorneys have advocated in state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, for changes to state constitutions and federal laws concerning the protection and standing of victims of crime in the criminal justice process.

Client Testimonials

Recognized as Law Firm of the Year