East Hawaii News

Senate, House Committees Pass Amended ‘Marsy’s Law’

February 10, 2016, 2:37 PM HST
* Updated February 10, 3:24 PM
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An amended version of Senate Bill 3034, known as “Marsy’s Law,” was passed by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Labor on Wednesday.

The bill would amend the Hawai’i State Constitution to guarantee specific rights to victims of crime.

On Tuesday, Bill 1144 HD was heard in the House Committee on Judiciary, passing with amendments.

Victims, their family members, organizations standing up for victims’ rights, and individuals supporting the protections for violent crime victims sounded off with their support for the bill at each of the hearings.

A national victims’ rights experts was also present at both hearings to provide information on constitutional law and share how other states have enacted a constitutional amendment without any negative impact on the court system.

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“The criminal justice system functions best when those directly impacted – both victims and defendants- have their voices meaningfully integrated such that they can perceive the process as fair and transparent,” Meg Garvin testified. “With regard to victims, research makes clear that when the system operates otherwise victims may endure hard beyond the original crime, harm which is referred to as ‘secondary victimization’ and which is recognized to have significant negative impacts on victims as well as on the proper functioning of the justice system.”

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Hawai’i’s measure is a model on victims’ rights constitutional amendments recently adopted in Illinois and that are taking place in six other states.

“We understand how serious constitutional amendments are and have been working closely with legislators on making sure the language is just right,” said Marsy’s Law for Hawai’i state director Stacy Evensen. “Over the course of this season, we are hopeful legislators who hear these horrible stories of injustice from victims will understand the importance of elevating crime victims’ rights to the same constitutional level as that of the accused.

If adopted, the Constitutional Amendment for Victims’ Rights would guarantee basic rights to crime victims. Those rights include:

  • The right to be treated with courtesy, fairness, with respect for their dignity and privacy throughout the criminal justice proceedings;
  • The right to receive information about their rights and services available to crime victims;
  • The right to receive notification of proceedings and major and major developments in their criminal case;
  • The right to receive timely notification of changes to the offender’s custodial status;
  • The right to be present at court proceedings;
  • The right to provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized;
  • The right to be heard at plea of sentencing proceedings or any process that may result in the offender’s release;
  • The right to restitution
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“Having a victim’s rights constitutional amendment actually helps the system,” said Hawai’i State Attorney General Douglas Chin. “It actually helps the victim, who often is lost and doesn’t understand what’s happening with the process to have someone who is advocating for them.”

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