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Does Marsy's Law Interfere With Defendant's Rights?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Marsy’s Law is an initiative meant to protect crime victims' rights. This is a national proposal that has already been adopted in a handful of states, including Ohio. It has also been rejected in others, including Idaho and Maine. However, some legal scholars are concerned about the impact Marsy’s Law could have on the constitutional rights of criminal defendants

What Does Marsy’s Law Provide?

Some provisions in Marsy’s Law are a bit vague. In general, the law is designed to protect victims who have reported a crime against them as they participate in the criminal justice process. Provisions include: 

  • Victims have the right to be treated with “dignity, respect, courtesy, sensitivity, and fairness.”

  • Victims’ rights can be legally enforced the same way that defendants' rights can be enforced. 

  • Victims have the right to “reasonable protections from the accused throughout the criminal justice process.” 

  • Victims have a right to be kept informed of court dates and other issues concerning their case. 

These provisions sound great for crime victims. It may not immediately seem like Marsy’s Law should be in any way controversial until you take a much closer look. 

What Are the Potential Problems With Marsy’s Law?

The problem lies more in how this law is implemented in real-life situations. There is quite a bit of concern about how Marsy’s Law affects the rights of those accused of crimes - who are supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. Some attorneys believe that the provision providing victims with “reasonable protection” while the case is ongoing could be abused in a way that strips defendants of their constitutional rights when they have not yet been convicted of a crime. 

Another potential problem lies in balancing a victim’s right to privacy with a defendant’s right to seek out and discover evidence that could help them show their innocence. The law could theoretically allow victims to refuse to turn over some types of evidence - which may stop the accused from putting forth the defense they need to clear their name. 

Many defense attorneys are concerned that this law could tip the scales of justice too far in favor of the prosecution. If a victim is not informed of an important court date in time to attend, it is not clear what would happen. Would a hearing on a motion to reduce bond need to be postponed, possibly forcing a “presumed innocent” defendant to remain in jail

While everyone wants crime victims to be protected and treated fairly, it is still critical that this is done without interfering with the constitutional rights of those who have been accused of a crime. 

Call a Wisconsin Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have been accused of a crime, you can rely on Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown LLP to defend your rights at every turn. Our experienced Milwaukee criminal defense attorneys take your rights very seriously. Call our law office at 414-271-1440 to arrange a free consultation. 

 

Sources: 

https://www.doj.state.wi.us/news-releases/office-open-government-advisory-marsy%E2%80%99s-law-and-public-records

https://www.wpr.org/wisconsin-appeals-court-asks-state-supreme-court-decide-case-over-marsys-law

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