The rights for crime victims enumerated in Marsy’s Law are common sense. All crime victims should be afforded these rights as a matter of course, but, in the current statutory system, they are not. That is why Marsy’s Law seeks constitutional amendments.
Marsy’s Law will ensure that crime victims are treated with the respect that they deserve. Here are some of the biggest questions we get about Marsy’s Law:
- What is Marsy's Law?
- Statutory rights vs. Constitutional rights
- Victims rights lead to overcrowding in prisons?
- Marsy's Law and defendant's rights
- Marsy's Law and the accused
- Will Marsy's Law be costly?
- Marsy's Law and previous crime victim acts
- Will Marsy's Law cause delays in prosecution?
- Does Marsy’s Law change the definition of a victim?
- Will including the victim interfere with the prosecutor's case?
- Will there be a rush of crime victims filings should it pass?
- Can Marsy's Law be abused?
- Will Marsy’s Law contribute to court, jail, and prison overcrowding?
Marsy’s Law is seeking to elevate key rights of crime victims into the state’s Constitution to ensure that victims have rights that are equal, in stature, to the constitutional rights of the accused and convicted. These constitutional protections for crime victims would include the following rights:
· To be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, sensitivity and fairness.
· To privacy.
· To have information or records protected that could be used to locate or harass the victim or which could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim.
· To proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
· To timely disposition of the case free from unreasonable delay.
· To be present at all proceedings involving the case.
· To reasonable protection from the accused throughout the justice process.
· To reasonable and timely notice of proceedings.
· To confer with the attorney for the government.
· To be informed by and provide input to the attorney for the government about any case disposition agreement including a plea agreement deferred prosecution agreement or diversion agreement before a decision is made concerning such agreement.
· To be heard in any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated including release, plea, sentencing, disposition, parole, revocation, expungement, or pardon.
· To have the authority with jurisdiction over the case provided with information pertaining to the economic, physical and psychological effect of the crime or juvenile act upon the victim and have the information considered by the authority with jurisdiction.
· To timely notice of any release, escape or death of the accused, if the accused is in custody or on supervision at the time of death.
· To refuse an interview, deposition or other discovery request made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused.
· To full restitution and to be provided with assistance collecting restitution.
· To have any monies or property collected from any person who has been ordered to make restitution be first applied to the restitution owed to the victim before paying any amounts owed to the government.
· To compensation as provided by law.
· To timely information about the outcome of the case.
· To timely notice about all rights in this section, or as provided by law, including the enforcement of these rights.
Finally, Marsy’s Law includes a clause on enforceability, so that if a victim of crime feels that any of their rights have been violated, they will have standing to petition the judge for a remedy.
States provide victims with statutory crime victim bills of rights. Shouldn’t that be enough and not require a constitutional amendment?
Statutory rights are insufficient and illusory because they are not enforced and can be changed by simple majorities. Victims deserve to have constitutional protections, just as those who are accused and convicted.
Will constitutional victims’ rights lead to overcrowding in prisons and place an unnecessary impact on the correctional system?
The parole board should have all pertinent information when deciding if an inmate should be paroled, and this includes information from the victim. Requiring victims to be informed of parole hearings and allowing them to be present and heard will not create overcrowding. Victims should have a right to know if their perpetrator will be released due to possible safety concerns and have an opportunity to explain to the parole board why an inmate should or should not be released.
Will victim’s rights in Marsy’s Law trump defendant’s rights?
Victims’ rights will not trump defendants’ constitutional rights. Victims’ constitutional rights create balance with defendant's’ constitutional rights. Our government is founded on a system of checks and balances. The courts have the ability to balance rights if a conflict arises between a victim’s right and a defendant’s right.
Will Marsy’s Law make it unfair for the accused?
Marsy’s Law will not infringe in any way upon any existing rights for either the accused or for victims of crime. Those accused of crimes will continue to receive all rights provided under the state’s Constitution and all other laws. Victims will continue to receive the same rights they always have, but will also have additional rights or find that their rights are stronger than before because they are equal to those of the accused under the Constitution.
Will allowing the victim to have constitutional rights be costly?
Cost should not prevent us from doing what is right. Many prosecutors’ offices already have ways to provide victims with notice and information. Other than notice, there is little or no cost involved in the rights being proposed.
What is the difference between Marsy’s Law and previous national crime victims acts?
Dozens if not hundreds of national laws passed dealing with criminal activity. Our constitutional amendment is unique as it is only effort that, once successful at the state level or ultimately successful at the national level, creates true equal rights for victims of crime in the criminal justice process. Currently, those accused of crimes and those convicted of crimes see their rights coming from the Constitution, whereas victims do not. Hence victims too often are the second-class citizens in the court and in the criminal justice process. We have seen over and over again that simply having statutory rights continues to leave too many victims to be revictimized by the criminal justice process.
More than 30 states have constitutional victims’ rights and their criminal courts have not been derailed. Speaking to a victim before finalizing a deal or a bail hearing is just common sense. The victim may have information that may change the court’s decision. Court hearings are normally scheduled days, weeks, and months in advance. This is sufficient time to contact victims.
The definition of a victim is in Marsy’s Law to define to whom the rights apply. It doesn’t apply to existing state law that grants rights to victims in specific situations.
Will forcing prosecutors to get input from the victim allow the victim to interfere with the prosecutor’s case?
Marsy’s Law gives the victim a voice, not a veto. The prosecutor’s role in a criminal case is unchanged by Marsy’s Law.
Will there be a flood of crime victims filings to enforce Marsy’s Law’s rights should it pass?
More than 30 other states have victim rights constitutional amendments and none have reported a significant number of filings. Courts respect the importance of constitutional rights. As long as courts respect victims’ rights there will not be a flood of filings. This is why having constitutional victims’ rights is vital.
Will people who claim they are victims but who actually aren’t abuse Marsy’s Law?
The right to be heard should not be confused with the right to be believed. People have no more opportunity to falsely claim victimhood under Marsy’s Law than they do under current laws. The court remains free to determine that an individual is not a victim, stopping that person from invoking any rights under Marsy’s Law – and there is absolutely no data to show increasing victims’ rights increases the instance of false victim claims.
Will Marsy’s Law slow down and clog the courts or contribute to jail and prison overcrowding?
Marsy’s Law does not require any different treatment of the accused, related to sentencing or otherwise, so law enforcement, juries, judges, and parole boards are still free to make decisions as they see fit. The only difference is, victims will have greater opportunity to make sure their voices are heard during the legal process.