(a) The Legislature finds and declares that without the cooperation of victims and witnesses, the criminal justice system would cease to function, yet too often these individuals are either ignored by the criminal justice system or simply used as tools to identify and punish offenders.
The Legislature finds further that all too often the victim of a serious crime is forced to suffer physical, psychological or financial hardship first as a result of the criminal act and then as a result of contact with a criminal justice system not totally responsive to the needs of such victims.
The Legislature finds further that under the current law, law-enforcement agencies must have cooperation from a victim of crime and yet neither the agencies nor the legal system can offer adequate protection or assistance when the victim, as a result of such cooperation, is threatened or intimidated.
The Legislature finds further that while the defendant is provided with counsel who can explain both the criminal justice process and the rights of the defendant, the victim or witness has no counterpart and is usually not even notified when the defendant is released on bail, the case is dismissed, a plea to a lesser charge is accepted or a court date is changed.
The Legislature finds further that the victim or witness who cooperates with the prosecutor often finds that the transportation, parking facilities and child care services at the court are unsatisfactory and they must often share the pretrial waiting room with the defendant or his family and friends.
The Legislature finds further that the victim may lose valuable property to a criminal only to lose it again for long periods of time to law-enforcement officials, until the trial and appeals are over; many times the property is damaged or lost, which is particularly stressful for the elderly or poor.
(b) The Legislature declares that the purposes of this article are to enhance and protect the necessary role of crime victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process and to ensure that the state and local governments do all that is possible within the limits of available resources to assist victims and witnesses of crime without infringing on the Constitutional rights of the defendant.