Marsy's Law (Illinois)
|Crime Victims' Bill of Rights|
|Amendment of Section 8.1 of Article I of the Illinois Constitution|
Marsy's Law for Illinois, formally called the Illinois Crime Victims' Bill of Rights, amended the 1993 Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act by establishing additional protections for crime victims and their families. Voters approved the measure as a constitutional amendment on November 4, 2014. It became law in 2015.
The Illinois Crime Victims' Bill of Rights amended the Constitution of Illinois to include protections for crime victims, including information on hearings, restitution and other protections. It was modeled after 2008 California legislation called Marsy's Law, named after Marsy Nicholas, a California college student who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend in 1983.
Illinois' Marsy's Law was one of several efforts to expand Marsy's Law across the U.S. following its successful adoption in California. Voters in South Dakota and Montana adopted their own versions of Marsy's Law in 2016, but the Montana measure was held unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court before it was implemented. There are efforts to introduce similar Marsy's Laws in Hawaii and Nevada. The ballot measure in Illinois received close to $4.3 million in financial support from Henry Nicholas, the brother of Marsy Nicholas and the sponsor of the original campaign in California.
In April 2014, Illinois lawmakers in the state's House and Senate agreed to place a referendum on the fall ballot to amend the Illinois state constitution. The proposed amendment to Section 8.1 of Article I of the Illinois Constitution, the Crime Victims' Bill of Rights, appeared on the ballot of the November 4, 2014, general election. Seventy-eight percent of voters who answered the question approved the referendum.
The state House approved HB 1121, the implementation bill reconciling the 1993 Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act with the constitutional amendment, on April 23, 2015. A month later, the state Senate approved the bill. Marsy's Law became effective immediately when Governor Bruce Rauner signed the legislation on August 20, 2015.
The editorial boards of the Chicago Tribune, The Southern Illinoisan, Herald & Review, Rock River Times, The Pantagraph and Rockford Register Star encouraged voters to approve the Marsy's Law amendment. The Chicago Tribune editorial board wrote that the measure gives victims legal standing to assert rights. "Because of the limits in the existing constitutional text," the editorial board wrote, "this change cannot be made by passing a law — only by revising the constitution." The Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), The News-Gazette (Champaign-Urbana) and Quad-City Times editorial boards opposed the amendment. Whereas The News-Gazette and Quad-City Times said the referendum offered no new protections, the Daily Herald said the constitution change "adds little aside from some enforcement provisions to rights already granted" and could increase court costs.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan supported Marsy's Law by saying victims are "owed a voice". The Illinois Family Institute sided with supporters of the amendment who said it would help enforce existing laws.
Opponents of Marsy's Law included House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, Illinois State Bar Association and defense attorneys (The Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys) . Currie said the proposal would slow court proceedings. The bar association argued the changes should be made through statutes, rather than amendments to the state constitution.
Provisions of the law
The Illinois Crime Victims' Bill of Rights amended the 1993 Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act by establishing additional protections for victims of crimes and their families. The law says crime victims have the right to be free from harassment, intimidation and abuse throughout the court process. The law ensures victims receive timely notice of all court proceedings and the accused's conviction, sentence, imprisonment and release. Additionally, the law allows victims the right to communicate with prosecution; to be heard at proceedings on post-arraignment release decisions, pleas, or sentencings; to attend trials and other court proceedings, and to have an advocate attend hearings with them; restitution; and to have their safety and the safety of their family considered in bail decisions and conditions of release.
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