Sharon Tyson Tovar: Victims need HB 343’s reforms

By Sharon Tyson Tovar - Guest Columnist

In 2008 I was kidnapped and raped.

It was not until June 2021 that I came forward, reported my story and started my path to justice. It took me over 10 years to come to terms with what happened to me. At this time, I also saw my assailant become a respected member of our community, and I could no longer sit back and allow him to potentially harm more women. When I told my story, I eventually found out I was one of at least three of his victims.

During this process, I learned that Ohio adopted Marsy’s Law to our state constitution in 2017. I took it upon myself to review and learn about my rights through Marsy’s Law. Marsy’s Law has 10 basic principles, and I felt as though at least four were not being followed in my case.

After realizing this, I contacted the Legal Aid of Western Ohio, which provides high-quality legal representation for those who may not have other opportunities. After filling out their online application, I was contacted by one of their team members, who interviewed me and informed me that I qualified for their assistance. I am so grateful for the help they have provided me during this time.

Now in 2022, I am waiting to see if the Ohio Attorney General and the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office are going to put together all of the evidence provided against my perpetrator and take action to give us justice and in turn to protect others from this dangerous man.

I am sharing my story to help educate others that Ohio victims do have rights thanks to Marsy’s Law. There is currently a bill in the Ohio General Assembly that would fairly implement Marsy’s Law across Ohio. If this would have been enacted when I reported my crime in 2021, I would have been notified of my rights through Marsy’s Law then and there.

While I was fortunate to have found out about Marsy’s Law on my own, this cannot be expected for all victims. When you are arrested, you are told your Miranda Rights automatically. This bill would create a system of notifying victims of their rights at the beginning of their cases as well. It is my hope our legislators quickly pass this legislation, so all victims can see their path to justice.

The amendments to Marsy’s Law just passed the House on Thursday. We’re one step closer to better laws for Victims of Crime.

Marsy’s Law as the constitutional amendment that was passed in 2017 includes the language “to be notified of his, her or their rights as a victim of crime.”

However, the amendment does not say who needs to notify the victim. Since 2017, we’ve seen police officers think the responsibility is on the prosecutor, we’ve seen prosecutors think it’s on the police, etc. There is no clear implementation language for Marsy’s Law, and at the end of the day, victims are not being treated how they should.

This is where House Bill 343 comes in. HB 343, introduced by State Rep. Andrea White, R-Kettering, implements enhanced rights from crime victims in line with Marsy’s Law.

It will create uniform procedures across the state. It will not matter where you live in Ohio, your rights as a victim will be treated and understood the same way across the state. In regards to notification of rights specifically, HB 343 puts this responsibility on law enforcement; the bill requires that information be provided by the agency “on its initial contact” and include a victim’s rights request/waiver form or a substantially similar form.

If HB 343 was enacted when I reported in 2021, the law enforcement team I was first in contact with would have been required to inform me of my rights. This clearly didn’t happen, since I found out about Marsy’s Law on my own. HB 343 was voted out of committee this week and was on the House floor this Wednesday, and it passed that phase!

Now it will go to the Senate to introduce a similar bill and then go on to the Governor.

The bill’s goals include:

• Requiring a “Marsy’s Card” to be provided to victims of a crime at the earliest contact with law enforcement to inform them of their rights and provide resources.

• Providing increased protections against public disclosure of victim’s personal information.

• Enhancing the right of victims to be heard in court proceedings.

• Protecting victims during the discovery process.

• Modifying existing law to address who can exercise the rights of a victim in situations where a victim does not.

• Addressing a victim’s right to interpreters.

• Allowing a victim to obtain a copy of all documents filed with the court in their case, at no cost to the victim.

• Requiring victims be notified of case proceedings upon request and allowed to be present at all “on the record” proceedings.

• Expanding victim rights to be heard in court proceedings.

• Requiring prompt notification to crime victims in certain cases when the accused is released from or escapes incarceration.

• Providing a framework for seeking appellate redress when necessary to enforce a crime victim’s rights.

By Sharon Tyson Tovar

Guest Columnist

Sharon Tyson Tovar lives in Ada. Her column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.

Sharon Tyson Tovar lives in Ada. Her column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.

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