Voters in Florida and North Carolina have approved new constitutional rights for victims of crime, adopting amendments modeled after California’s Victims’ Bill of Rights, colloquially known as Marsy’s Law, to ensure that victims are afforded rights just as criminal offenders are. Both constitutional amendments guarantee that crime victims and their loved ones are informed about their rights and the services available to them.
Marsy’s Law Passes In North Carolina, Florida
The constitutional amendments in Florida and North Carolina both received widespread, bipartisan support, passing by a 62% margin in both states. “North Carolina’s voters – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – made their voices heard today,” says Chris Sinclair, campaign director for Marsy’s Law for NC, adding:
“Voters chose to support important stronger rights for victims of crime – to give victims and their families an equal level of constitutional protections as the accused and convicted.”
Both amendments adopt similar language, affording victims the right to “be informed, to be present, and to be heard when relevant, at all crucial stages of criminal proceedings, to the extent that these rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.”
A Bill Of Rights For Victims Of Crime
Each amendment lists an enumerated roster of specific rights, including the right to be free of intimidation and harassment, and the right to have their safety considered during bail or pretrial release hearings.
In both Florida and North Carolina, victims and their families will be informed about their rights and be granted the right to receive notifications on important court proceedings and case developments. Crime victims will also be notified in a timely manner of changes in an offender’s custodial status, and be given the opportunity to provide their input to prosecutors.
Advocates Celebrate Midterm Victory
Interviewed by North Carolina’s Independent Tribune, Frances Battle, executive director for the N.C. Victims Assistance Network, said, “Being a victim of crime is not a role chosen, but it is one that is life-changing. There are few causes more important than protecting victims of crime. This is an important step forward on behalf of North Carolina crime victims and their families to keep them informed at every step of the process.”
Florida’s bill proved controversial because it bundled multiple motions into a single amendment, the Miami Herald reports. Alongside the victims’ rights bill, Florida voters who consented to Amendment 6 also approved a measure setting the mandatory retirement age for judges at 70, along with a separate part that requires judges to interpret statutes and agency rules themselves, instead of referring to the rulings of governmental agencies.
After the midterm vote, Greg Ungru, director at Marsy’s Law for Florida, celebrated his campaign’s victory. “The Voters of the Sunshine State stood up strong for crime victims today, making a bold statement that the time is now for equal rights for crime victims in Florida’s Constitution,” he said. “Today was a true bipartisan victory. It was not about Republicans or Democrats, but about men and women who have been victims of crime being treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.”