This week, the nation will recognize National Crime Victims' Rights Week (NCVRW) April 7-13, but North Carolina's voters made their support for crime victims clear last November by voting for the Marsy's Law victims' rights amendment. More than 60 percent of statewide voters agreed that North Carolina's victims of crime deserve stronger constitutional rights.
It was an issue that crossed political, geographical, and social demographics to support crime victims by putting specific, enforceable rights directly in the state constitution with important guarantees and protections that victims didn't have formerly. While these stronger victims' rights take no rights away from anyone else - including the accused - they do give crime victims stronger, equal rights. Because of this law, victims and their families will now be given information about their rights and the services available to them from the beginning of the process and notified about proceedings and developments in their case. They will be notified about escape or release of the accused or convicted. Another key right that Marsy's Law provides is the ability for victims or their families to be present - and heard - at court proceedings like bail hearings or sentencing hearings if they choose.
While North Carolina had some victims' rights laws prior to the recent amendment, it commits that rights are applied statewide, in every county and community, and are guaranteed as a part of the constitution. Marsy's Law rights ensure that victims and their families are a part of the process at every step - treating them as an integral part of the system versus an afterthought.
For victims of crime and their families, there is no more vulnerable time in life. It is not a role chosen, but one that is given without a choice. Crime victims' pain and the aftermath of the crime itself has lasting impact that takes months - even years - to heal physically, financially, and psychologically. North Carolina stood with victims of crime in November - by making it clear that their struggles are worthy of equal status in the state's most important document. And today, North Carolina continues to stand with crime victims as we honor them during NCVRW and beyond.