What is Marsy’s Law and How Could it Impact Criminal Cases?

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On the surface, outlining victim’s rights appeals to a lot of people. Those who have had tragedy strike their family do deserve our sympathy and they do deserve justice. It is much easier to sympathize with them than it is to sympathize with those who have been convicted or even charged with crimes. That is precisely why the law has seen fit to establish a system of justice that is designed to protect the accused from undue process.

We take this for granted in our criminal justice system, but the presumption of innocence has not been the typical mode of operation throughout history. The idea that criminals had a right to fair trial by an impartial jury, were protected from illegal searches and seizures, and that law enforcement had to abide by a standard of set of rules are the pillars on which America calls itself the “Land of the Free.”

Do Victims of Crimes Need “Rights”?

In the context of rights, there is generally some power imbalance present. For instance, individuals have rights, since a state wielding unchecked power is totalitarianism and authoritarianism. There is a power imbalance between the individual and the state and so we establish individual rights under the law.

Victims of violent crimes may feel left out in the cold. The individual who (allegedly) is afforded so many unique rights under the law may not be deserving of any of them. We also have a process—albeit an imperfect one—for determining the guilt of the accused and these rights are afforded to every American under the Constitution.

What Rights Would Victims Receive?

Under Marsy’s Law legislation, victims of violent crimes and family members of victims would be entitled to:

  • Be informed when the convicted is released from jail or prison;
  • Be informed when there are public proceedings concerning the convicted;
  • Be heard in any public proceeding involving sentencing, parole, or when the prosecution offers a plea.

The one major problem is that victims already have all or most of those rights.

Is a Constitutional Amendment on the Horizon?

Victims rights initiatives are gaining steam across the US, in subtly different forms, depending on the state. Many believe they undermine due process, however. The goal of Marsy’s Law is to gain passage in each state’s constitution and then enshrine victim’s rights in the U.S. Constitution. As noted earlier, 38 states already have victims’ rights legislation that notifies victims when a convicted person is due for parole, and more. The problem with Marsy’s Law is that no one is quite sure what rights victims are getting beyond what they already have. In addition, the emotionally charged nature of the legislation could impact an innocent defendant’s right to a fair trial.

Talk to an Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been charged with a crime in Ohio, you have rights under the law. VanNoy Firm can help you assert those rights and ensure you get the best defense available. Talk to us online or give us a call for more information.



About The Author

Anthony S. VanNoy

Trial Attorney

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