There has been a lot of attention focused on the slate of six constitutional amendments that North Carolina voters will consider on November 6. Partisan controversy has swirled around the package - but one of the amendments deserves consideration outside of the group. Victims’ rights should not be dragged into the partisan rancor.
In order to simplify the anti-amendment message, the amendment that gives victims of crime guaranteed rights in the constitution has unfortunately been lumped into the group - ironically a victim of circumstance.
When pressed about the need to oppose this amendment, the response is typically that it is not necessary, that victims in North Carolina already have enough rights. Nothing could be further from the reality.
While it is true that North Carolina already lists some rights for victims of crime in the constitution, those rights are limited and do not carry an enforcement provision. That means that victims whose rights are violated have no recourse under current laws.
Some have argued that changes can simply be made through additional laws - and changing the constitution is not needed. However, that means inequity remains for victims. Consider that the rights of the accused and defendants are in the constitution today, but the rights of victims remain in statute - meaning that the accused and defendants currently hold more rights than their victims.
The victims’ rights amendment, known as Marsy’s Law, will allow victims of crime to be seen as equals in the criminal justice system. The victims’ rights amendment will give victims a voice in the process and keep them informed. They will know when the offender is released. They will know what pretrial release conditions have been placed on the defendant. They will be allowed to speak in hearings if they choose. In other words, victims will be central, not peripheral, to the process.
Becoming a victim of crime is a life-altering event. The best way victims pull their lives together again is to get support and information early, and throughout the criminal process, and to feel that their voices will be heard. Amending the state constitution should never be taken lightly, and reserving it for a cause as important as granting North Carolina’s crime victims equal rights is the right time to vote for such an amendment.
North Carolina's General Assembly passed Marsy's Law - the constitutional amendment guaranteeing equal rights to victims of crime during the last week of the legislative session. The amendment needed to pass 3/5 of both chambers of the General Assembly to be placed on the November ballot for voters to decide. Marsy's Law gained significantly more votes than needed in both chambers - with an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 45-1 in the Senate and 107-9 in the House.
North Carolina's legislature made a resounding commitment to victims and their families this session. The amendment will now be sent to voters in November urging them to consider improving the state's rights for victims of crimes that will include things like notification of important hearings involving their cases, allowing victims to speak during proceedings if they choose - and being informed when the accused or convicted have changes in custody - including release from jail.
Legislators included the words 'dignity and respect' in the amendment language to highlight the important status victims and their families deserve in our society.
To-date, more than 50 local town and county governments have issued resolutions in support of Marsy's Law as well as sixty percent of the state's sheriffs. The NC Sheriffs' Association also gave their support to the legislation as it was being considered in the General Assembly.
The Marsy's Law campaign will continue working towards the November election day educating voters about the important need to improve rights for NC victims of crime. The comprehensive bipartisan support among state leaders, local elected officials and law enforcement demonstrates that North Carolinians are uniting for a cause that is meaningful to our entire state. November 6 will be a great day for North Carolina - it's the day to vote YES for victims' rights.
Bipartisan Victims' Rights Legislation Passes North Carolina General Assembly - Statewide Vote This Fall
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2018
Anna Roberts 919-208-4050
Chris Sinclair 919-931-4652
Bipartisan Victims’ Rights Legislation Passes North Carolina General Assembly -
Statewide Vote this Fall
Constitutional Amendment to Strengthen Rights for Crime Victims will be on November 6 Ballot
Members of the North Carolina General Assembly are working through the 2018 legislative session, wrapping up work on various budget issues and taking up policy issues facing the state. One important policy issue the legislature is considering includes a constitutional amendment to strengthen victims’ rights - called Marsy’s Law.
It will give equal rights to victims of crime in the state constitution - rights that are already given to the accused and convicted. Rights associated with Marsy’s Law include giving victims the right to speak - or be heard - during court proceedings like bail hearings or sentencings. It also will ensure that victims are notified when the accused and convicted have a change in custody status - including being let out of prison or escaping. If passed by ⅗ of both chamber - Marsy's Law will be on the November 2018 ballot for voters to decide.
Right now these rights are not guaranteed to North Carolina victims by law. While some victims are included in court proceedings and notified - it varies depending on where they live in the state. Some counties and DA offices are proactive in these details, and some are not. Marsy’s Law legislation would ensure that victims of crime are treated with the same dignity and respect regardless of jurisdiction or county. It will fill in the gaps in our current system.
Marsy’s Law has been vetted and debated for more than a year in North Carolina - the campaign kicked off in April of 2017, followed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote in the state House. Since that time, communities and local law enforcement around the state have spoken out in favor of Marsy’s Law: 50 local town and county resolutions from all over the state and almost sixty percent of the state’s individual sheriffs - Republican and Democrat - endorse Marsy’s Law.
But it is not without debate, as there should be to take on such an important cause:
Is a constitutional amendment really needed? Amending the state’s constitution should never be taken lightly, but reserving this level of law for a cause as important as equal rights for victims is - by many measures - the appropriate time to amend the constitution. While there are currently statutory rights in North Carolina law for victims of crime - constitutional rights are simply a stronger guarantee, and one that victims and their families deserve.
Will it be too costly for the state? There has been some speculation about cost, but it is not grounded in any factual evidence. Based on comparisons to other states that have history implementing similar Marsy's Law legislation, like Illinois and California, there has been no indication of significant increased costs - and neither state has needed to allocate specific funding for implementation. And while there may be some small additional burden or cost associated with providing notice to victims regarding custody status of the accused or important court events affecting them - shouldn't we be doing this already for North Carolina's crime victims?
Does this take away from the rights of the accused? Marsy’s Law does not and is not intended to negatively impact the rights of the accused or convicted. It simply elevates victims to the same level in the constitution. Establishing “co-equal” rights for victims alongside the accused - in the state constitution - is the goal of the North Carolina effort.
We’ve all seen the imagery of the justice system striking a balanced scale, indicating that all sides are given equal treatment. And yet, today, the state’s victims of crime and their families - North Carolina’s most vulnerable citizens - are not on equal footing as those who are accused of committing the crimes from the very start. North Carolina’s crime victims deserve dignity and respect while seeking justice. They deserve constitutional level protections that stronger victims rights will afford them through Marsy’s Law.
The daily barrage of polling data during an intense election cycle can leave voters weary of the process. But along with the daily drum of data and numbers telling us what different groups of people are thinking about every topic imaginable, there is an underlying truth and science to this field. And while 2016 showed that polling is by no stretch an exact science, an issue that is supported by 8 out of 10 polled voters is in overwhelmingly solid territory.
Marsy’s Law for North Carolina, a campaign working to establish co-equal rights for crime victims, which the accused and convicted already have under the state constitution, has that level of support according to a poll of likely voters. These voters were asked if they supported amending the constitution to give victims of crime stronger rights and got an overwhelmingly positive response drawing from both sides of the political spectrum. Not many issues can say they garner significant support from both political parties.
More data shows that almost 90% of North Carolina voters believe that crime victims should be guaranteed notification of a criminal’s’ bail, parole, release or escape. This highlights the attention to public safety and the underlying concern North Carolina voters have without this guarantee in the constitution.
Also approaching 90% is the number of voters who believe that it is imperative to provide for basic dignity and inclusion in the justice system by guaranteeing victims – if they choose – the constitutional right to speak at a bail or sentencing hearing of the accused.
It seems like common sense that victims should be afforded this level of rights in our constitution to promote basic public safety, dignity, and respect for victims. But unfortunately, that is not currently the case. Marsy’s Law for North Carolina is working to ensure victims receive these important, enforceable rights by law and the data supported by this poll shows that North Carolinians overwhelmingly agree.
The Marsy’s Law for North Carolina campaign continues to build a following statewide - including with its active social and digital media networks. From Facebook to Twitter and Instagram, the MLNC team has covered the state with images of elected officials, law enforcement, and voters supporting the need to strengthen victims’ rights in the state constitution to give victims of crime equal rights that the accused and convicted already have.
Last month, the team updated its website: www.marsyslawfornc.com. The new site includes current images and activities from the campaign. It also features stories from NC victims of crime - sharing their perspectives on why stronger rights are needed. These brave victims and their families are speaking out publicly explaining why they deserve a guarantee in the state constitution to be notified when their assailant is let out of jail, or a guarantee by law that they have the right to be heard by a judge during a sentencing or plea deal.
The MLNC website will continue to provide information regarding this initiative and serve as a resource for elected officials and voters to learn about and participate in this important campaign.
Please visit www.marsyslawfornc.com to learn more.
Momentum in support of victims’ rights continues to build in our state, as four additional North Carolina communities—Kinston, New Bern, Nags Head, and Middlesex all passed resolutions to support Marsy’s Law last month.
With the General Assembly currently convened for the 2018 short session, Marsy’s Law is up for consideration by the state Senate - after passing the House during last year’s session. Now, it is more important than ever for North Carolinians to reach out to their elected officials, particularly in the Senate, to urge them to action in support for crime victims in our state. North Carolina voters have real power to stand up for our fellow friends and neighbors who have suffered as a result of the crime inflicted on them.
If Marsy’s Law passes both chambers, it will be sent to voters to decide if they agree to strengthen rights for victims of crime in the state’s constitution - guaranteeing that victims get equal constitutional-level rights that the accused and convicted already have.
So far, 48 local communities - towns and counties - have voted on resolutions in support of stronger constitutional victims’ rights in North Carolina. Strengthening their rights is an opportunity for the state’s voters to give victims back some peace of mind and, hopefully, provide even a bit of closure so that they can again enjoy life - and all that comes with it.
Marsy’s Law legislation will help those in our society who have been victimized by giving them guaranteed rights like notification of custody of the accused and the right to speak and be heard during court proceedings. These rights are not currently guaranteed in the constitution but are needed to keep victims and their families safe and give them the dignity and respect they deserve.
Please visit the updated Marsy’s Law website, https://www.marsyslawfornc.com/ for more information regarding this initiative and opportunities to contribute to this important effort for crime victims’ rights.
On Capital Tonight: Victims' rights advocates are pushing state lawmakers to add a constitutional amendment to this year's ballot. We talk with Sen. Tamara Barringer, (R) Wake County, and Rep. Darren Jackson, (D) Wake County, about Marsy's Law and why greater protections for crime victims should be in the state constitution.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Victims' rights advocates gathered Wednesday in downtown Raleigh to honor the survivors and family members of those killed while also pushing for action to help them.
The group met at the Crime Victims Memorial Garden on East Lane Street, across from the Legislative Building, to talk about proposed changes to state law to better protect victims and their families.
They plan to lobby lawmakers for House Bill 551, a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would outline basic rights for crime victims, including requiring courts to notify victims' families of hearings and allowing victims to protect the disclosure of private information and get restitution from defendants.
The legislation, often called Marsy's Law after a California student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983, passed the North Carolina House a year ago but remains bottled up in the Senate.