None of us expect to be a victim of a crime, but with 83% of voters passing Marsy’s Law in Ohio during the November 2017 election, the playing field was evened and victims now have more rights to participate in the legal system.
Victims can now request the right to receive notification when their perpetrator is released from jail or prison, the right to be told about and attend public proceedings involving their case, and the right to be heard at these proceedings. Although victims are afforded these rights, not all are automatic. Victims must assert some rights under Marsy’s Law. Staff at Crime Victim Services can help victims know about and use their legal rights.
Crime Victim Services here in Allen and Putnam Counties has been working hard to help residents be aware of their new rights. We created and distributed palm-sized cards with victim rights and justice system information to all local law enforcement officers to give victims at the first point of contact after a crime. This change is not just a piece of paper. Now at crime scenes, defendants have Miranda Rights and victims have Marsy Rights, and Ohio victim rights are provided in writing by officers.
Crime Victim Services provided training to law enforcement officers on the changes in the new victim rights. CVS has been distributing regional posters and fliers and airing T.V. Public Service Announcements. Staff at CVS present over 100 times each year to groups, at events, and with the media. We are working diligently to educate and help residents of Allen and Putman Counties receive their rights and recover from victimization.
Marsy’s Law has benefited victims in our very own communities. For example, twice this year judges have delayed hearings for victims to be able to present. In June, a Lima defendant plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter in an overdose case. The sentencing was delayed in order for the victim’s family to be in attendance and to submit their Victim Impact Statement. This allowed them some semblance of closure during this tragic time for the family.
Still, we’re still waiting for additional action from the Ohio legislature. The Victim Rights Constitutional Amendment passed by Ohio voters in 2017 did not spell out the specific process of ensuring victim rights in the Ohio Revised Code. For example, what does the new Ohio constitutional guarantee for victims to have an order of, “Full and Timely Restitution” mean in the daily justice process? Are victims paid first? Do individual victims get paid before a corporate victim? Is a criminal restitution order an automatic civil judgement?
Without implementing legislation, judges and prosecutors in Allen and Putnam Counties can interpret this differently than those in Franklin or Mahoning Counties. Victims should be treated fairly and equally, no matter where you live. We encourage all Ohio residents, as well as Ohio senators and representatives to support Representative Bob Cupp’s leadership to pass Marsy’s Rights legislation.
If you are a victim of a crime in Allen or Putnam Counties, do not hesitate to reach out to the Crime Victims Services at 419-222-8666 in Lima or 419-523-1111 in Ottawa, or on-line at CrimeVictimServices.org
David Voth is the executive director of Allen and Putnam County Crime Victim Services.