The fight for equal rights for crime victims is a significant national movement. Hundreds of marches are conducted across the country each year supporting National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. While perpetrators of crime and those accused of crimes have clearly defined rights in the United States Constitution, the victim’s rights are not clearly defined.
Law enforcement and the legal court system are responsible for safeguarding the criminal’s rights during a criminal case. Similarly, the crime victim should have equal rights clearly defined in their state’s constitution. Marsy’s Law conveys that victims’ rights, whether domestic violence victims or a crime of opportunity, must be respected and protected.
What is Marsy’s Law?
Proposition 9, the California Victims Bill of Rights Act of 2008: Marsy’s Law, initiated by Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III, is one of the most comprehensive constitutional victims’ rights laws in the United States. Murphy’s Law ensures that the victim’s interests and rights are protected by the law and respected no less vigorously than the protections afforded to juvenile delinquents and criminal defendants.
Marsy’s Law is a model of a constitutional amendment released by Marsy’s Law For All, which seeks to preserve and protect crime victims’ rights. It gives crime victims the right to play a meaningful role throughout the criminal and juvenile justice system.
The Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment affords every victim equal rights from the time of victimization. Since becoming law in California, Marsy’s Law has been proposed and adopted in several states, including Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, Kentucky, North Dakota, South Dakota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
How Did Marsy’s Law Come to Be?
Marsy’s Law, established in 2008, is named after Marsalee Ann Nicholas (Marsy), a University of California Santa Barbara student stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Marsy’s boyfriend was quickly arrested for the murder of Marsalee Nicholas. However, he was released on bail just a few days after the murder, and the California judicial system was under no legal obligation at that time to notify the family.
Unaware that Marsy’s murderer had been released into the public, her family stopped at the market on the way home from her funeral to purchase a loaf of bread. Shockingly, Marsy’s grieving mother was confronted by her daughter’s murderer while standing in the checkout line. Sadly, Marsy’s family’s experience is all too typical when surviving family members of murder victims do not have individual rights spelled out in their state constitution.
Marsy’s brother, Dr. Henry T Nicholas III, led and sponsored the Marsy’s Law initiative in California. Marsy’s Law gives the family of murder victims greater rights in the court, including considering the safety of victims of crime and their family members when setting bail and release. After Marsy’s Law passed in California in 2008, Dr. Nicholas founded Marsy’s Law for all in 2009, supporting equal crime victims’ rights across the United States.
Why is Marsy’s Law Needed?
While Federal victim rights are defined under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, effective October 30, 2004, each state has its own victims’ rights protocol. Marsy’s Law is a crucial constitutional amendment that ensures victims receive equal rights and are aware of their rights.
When someone is arrested for a crime in the United States, they are read their Miranda rights. However, crime victims are typically not informed of their rights at the time of victimization. According to Marsy’s Law, each victim must receive information on their rights, including the steps to be taken by law enforcement and the judicial system and their actions as victims of crime.
Constitutional protection is the right of every victim of crime, just as it is the accused individual’s right. Crime victims have suffered enough and should not experience additional emotional pain while pursuing justice. Victims deserve equal rights, including the right to due process, fair treatment, and respect for their dignity. Victims have the right to be free from intimidation, abuse, and harassment. Sadly, abuse of a crime victim’s rights or lack of state policy jeopardizes the safety of victims and their families. As seen in Marsy’s case, unequal rights place victims in grave danger during criminal proceedings. Marsy’s Law ensures crime victims and their families receive equal rights, along with the right to be heard during the court proceedings, be notified of the criminal process, and be informed of their rights.
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