NC voters to have opportunity to strengthen rights for crime victims
Published June 27, 2018
By Brad Crone
by Brad Crone, Communications consultant and NC SPIN panelist, June 27, 2018.
Both the North Carolina Senate and the state House passed victims’ rights legislation this week with an overwhelming bipartisan vote in both chambers. The amendment, known as Marsy’s Law, will be on the November 6 ballot for all North Carolina voters to consider.
The legislation seeks to amend the state constitution to provide an equal level of constitutional protections to North Carolina crime victims that are already given to the accused and convicted.
“This victims’ rights bill will provide stronger rights for North Carolina’s victims of crime - and an enforcement mechanism for our laws that we don’t currently have,” said Sen. Tamara Barringer, a Senate sponsor of the legislation. "We're putting the words 'dignity and respect' in the amendment to highlight that North Carolina victims deserve that treatment."
The Marsy’s Law for NC campaign kicked off in April of 2017 educating citizens and elected officials about the need for stronger rights for victims and their families. The issue is gaining momentum statewide with endorsements by 50 local town councils and counties and almost sixty percent of the state’s sheriffs to-date.
"It is common sense that victims - who could be any one of us on any given day - deserve at least the same rights guaranteed by law that the accused already have. Rights like notification of custody and hearings in the very complex legal system they are a part of suddenly," said Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison. "Marsy’s Law is the right thing to do for North Carolina victims regardless of political affiliation. Crime victims in North Carolina deserve equal rights."
The victims’ rights amendment has North Carolina-specific language that will focus on crimes against a person and felony property crimes.
Marsy’s Law will guarantee that victims receive certain rights in a number of important ways including:
informing victims and their families about their rights and the services available to them,
- giving them the right to receive notification of proceedings and major developments in a criminal case,
- protecting their safety by notifying them in a timely manner regarding changes to the offender’s custodial status,
- allowing victims and their families to exercise their right to be present - and heard - at court proceedings, and
- providing input to the prosecutor before the disposition is finalized.
"I encourage every North Carolinian to support Marsy's Law on the ballot. This bill is about doing what is right for victims of violent crime. For once we have a piece of legislation that breaks through the partisan barriers and focuses on helping victims, who are often forgotten about. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, surely you can agree that victims deserve rights in the state of North Carolina," said Indian Trail Mayor, Michael Alvarez.
Likely voters also support this issue according to a survey among North Carolina voters: more than eight in ten North Carolinians from across the political spectrum support amending the constitution to give victims stronger rights. Nearly nine out of ten voters believe that crime victims should be guaranteed notification of a criminal's bail, parole, release or escape and that victims, if they choose, have the constitutional right to speak at the bail or sentencing hearing.
“Hyde County supports Marsy’s Law and efforts to elevate key rights of crime victims to ensure that victims have rights that are equal to the rights of the accused and convicted. Victims deserve the right to be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness during a difficult process," said Hyde County Manger, Bill Rich.
For a list of Marsy’s Law NC current endorsements: http://nc.marsyslaw.us/endorsements
Visit the Marsy’s Law for NC campaign website: www.marsyslawfornc.com
About Marsy’s Law NC
Marsy’s Law for North Carolina seeks to amend the state constitution to provide an equal level of constitutional protection to victims of crime that is already afforded to the accused and convicted. Marsy’s Law is supported across the political spectrum to ensure that victims have the same “co-equal” rights as the accused and convicted - nothing more; nothing less.
While there are some victims’ rights protections currently in North Carolina’s constitution, they are not applied the same way from county to county and there is not currently broad, statewide, enforceable language equally outlined across the state. The Marsy’s Law for NC campaign aims to give victims of crime a voice they do not have by law in the criminal justice process, and the safety and peace-of-mind to know their assailant has not been released without their knowledge.
About Marsy’s Law
Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom Corporation, has made it his mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights. He formed Marsy’s Law for All in 2009, providing expertise and resources to victims’ rights organizations nationwide.
Since California’s passage of the Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008, Marsy’s Law legislation has also succeeded in North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois. Last Fall it passed Ohio by more than 80 percent of the statewide vote and is on the 2018 ballot in other states including Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, Nevada and Oklahoma.