The resolution to amend the constitution — commonly known as Marsy’s Law — proposes over a dozen ways to protect the rights of victims of violent crimes. They include rights to privacy and treatment with dignity and respect.
Republican state Senator Van Wanggaard says all the resolution suggests is for victims to have the same rights as the accused.
“This is about elevating a victim’s right to be nearly equal, on a level playing feild,” Wanggaard says.
But some say certain portions of the resolution are unconstitutional.
Among those: a provision that would give alleged victims the right to not hand over certain information. State Senator Kathleen Vinehout says those could conflict with defendants’ constitutional rights to a fair trial – and ability to confront accusers.
“In our constitution already … are the rights of victims of crimes,” Vinehout says.
The resolution was amended to say it’s not intended to conflict with federal rights.
Defense attorneys have pointed out other portions of the resolution that they say wouldn’t be beneficial or practical. They include the right of victims to attend all court proceedings. Attorney Dean Strang says paying transportation costs for out-of-state victims to attend hearings could rack up taxpayer dollars.
He also has significant concerns with giving victims the right to a quote “full restitution.” He says it gives victims false hope, since the defendant might not be able to pay back what they owe in full.
Several other states have passed similar amendments in a handful of states, including California and the Dakotas. The Montana Supreme Court struck down it’s version of Marsy’s Law last week — but the decision was due to procedural, rather than substantive, reasons.