COLUMBUS (TNS) — Ohio voters will decide this November whether to strengthen crime victims’ rights enumerated in the state constitution by voting on Marsy’s Law for Ohio.
Officially called the Ohio Crime Victims Bill of Rights, the proposed constitutional amendment was certified Monday by the Ohio secretary of state. If the measure is approved by voters, Ohio would be the sixth state to enact such protections for victims of crime.
“We are excited that Ohioans will be able to vote on placing basic, enforceable rights for victims of crime into the state constitution,” said Henry Nicholas, a California philanthropist who started the Marsy’s Law effort in memory of his sister Marsy.
The measure joins the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act, a citizen-proposed law that aims to lower state spending on prescription medicine, on the November 7 ballot.
Marsy’s Law supporters had to submit at least 305,591 valid signatures of registered Ohio voters, meeting a certain threshold in 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties. The group collected 371,749 valid signatures and met the threshold in 54 counties, Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office said Monday.
Marsy’s Law would expand crime victims’ rights granted by a 1994 constitutional amendment that called for victims to have a “meaningful role” in the justice process. Several state laws also outline victims’ rights, such as the right to attend court proceedings, but victim advocates say they are difficult to enforce.
Marsy’s Law would allow victims’ attorneys to file a motion in court if they feel their rights have been ignored.
Specifically, the amendment outlines 10 rights including the rights to:
•Be treated with respect, fairness and dignity throughout the criminal justice process.
•Notification in a timely manner of major proceedings and developments in the case.
•Be notified of all changes to an offender’s status.
•Be present at court proceedings and provide input to a prosecutor before a plea deal is struck.
•Be heard at pleas or sentence proceedings or any process that may grant an offender’s release.
•Receive restitution from the offender.
•Refuse an interview, deposition or other discovery request made by the accused, except as authorized elsewhere in the Ohio Constitution.
The measure has the support of a bipartisan group of prosecutors, law enforcement officials and victim advocates. Public defenders and defense attorneys are concerned the amendment could give victims, who are not parties to criminal lawsuits, more rights than defendants.