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
- Marsy's Law and defendant's rights
- Marsy's Law and the accused
- Will Marsy's Law cause delays in prosecution?
- 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?
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:
- Right to reasonable and timely notice, upon request, of all public proceedings
- Right to be present at all public proceedings
- Right to be heard in any public proceeding involving a release, plea, sentencing, or other matter involving the right of the victim
- Right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay
- Right to reasonable protection from the accused and those acting on behalf of the accused
- Right to timely notice, upon request, of release or escape of the accused
- Right to full and timely restitution
- Right to fairness and due consideration of the victim’s safety, dignity and privacy
- Right to be informed of these enumerated rights
- Standing to enforce 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 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. Those accused of crimes will continue to receive all rights provided under the federal and state Constitutions and all other laws.
Kentucky is one of only 15 states that does not provide constitutional protection for our victims, meaning that over 30 states already have constitutional victims’ rights. Prosecutors from these states report that providing constitutional rights to victims has - simply stated - not derailed the criminal courts. Speaking to a victim before finalizing a plea deal or a bail hearing (when possible) is best practice and something that most prosecutors do. The victim may have information that will be helpful to the prosecutor and the court. Most hearings are scheduled well in advance, giving ample time for these conversations to occur.
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.
Kentucky is one of only 15 states that does not provide constitutional protection for our crime victims, meaning over 30 other states already do so. None of these states have reported a significant number of filings, and we don’t expect Kentucky to be any different. Most professionals who work in the criminal justice system are truly well-intentioned and care deeply about crime victims. Simply passing Marsy’s Law will create a cultural shift within the justice system and more of a focus on ensuring that victims’ rights are provided from the outset. It is important to keep in mind that the justice system already deals with ensuring compliance with constitutional protections - for those who are accused and convicted. Courts understand the gravity of constitutional rights and of compliance. 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 by the court should not be confused with the right to be believed. Under Marsy’s Law for Kentucky, people have no more opportunity to falsely claim victimhood than they do under current laws. The court retains discretion and remains free to determine that an individual is not a victim, stopping that person from invoking any rights under Marsy’s Law. Additionally, there is absolutely no data to show increasing the level of legal protection provided to victims’ increases the instance of false victim claims.