* Back in 1992, Illinois voters approved a new constitutional amendment…
SECTION 8.1. CRIME VICTIM’S RIGHTS.
(a) Crime victims, as defined by law, shall have the following rights as provided by law:
(1) The right to be treated with fairness and respect for their dignity and privacy throughout the criminal justice process.
(2) The right to notification of court proceedings.
(3) The right to communicate with the prosecution.
(4) The right to make a statement to the court at sentencing.
(5) The right to information about the conviction, sentence, imprisonment, and release of the accused.
(6) The right to timely disposition of the case following the arrest of the accused.
(7) The right to be reasonably protected from the accused throughout the criminal justice process.
(8) The right to be present at the trial and all other court proceedings on the same basis as the accused, unless the victim is to testify and the court determines that the victim’s testimony would be materially affected if the victim hears other testimony at the trial.
(9) The right to have present at all court proceedings, subject to the rules of evidence, an advocate or other support person of the victim’s choice.
(10) The right to restitution.
(b) The General Assembly may provide by law for the enforcement of this Section.
(c) The General Assembly may provide for an assessment against convicted defendants to pay for crime victims’ rights.
(d) Nothing in this Section or in any law enacted under this Section shall be construed as creating a basis for vacating a conviction or a ground for appellate relief in any criminal case.
There was a lot of false or misleading info in comments yesterday about the new constitutional amendment, which will go before voters this November. So, let’s clear up a few things.
* The big compromise back in 1992 was that no “enforcement” provision would be put into the Constitution. The enforcement provision in state statute doesn’t give victims any standing.
From the Marsy’s Law website…
Why is a constitutional amendment necessary?
The Illinois Constitution currently guarantees crime victims certain rights, but these rights are technically unenforceable, making them ineffective and weak… Illinois is the only state that actually bars the enforcement of victims’ rights.
* When the attorney general’s office held discussions on this topic a few years ago, it was decided that the best way to proceed was through another constitutional amendment. This is from AG Madigan’s office…
Illinois has both a constitutional and statutory Victims’ Bill of Rights. Article I, Section 8.1 of the Illinois Constitution states that “nothing in the section addressing the rights of crime victims or any law enacted under the section shall be construed as creating a basis for vacating a conviction or a ground for appellate relief in any criminal case.”
Consequently, victims who are denied their rights have no redress because the denial is literally not subject to any kind of review. Because the problem lies with the Constitution, the only way to correct it is via constitutional amendment.
* The Illinois State Bar Association was opposed to a similar effort two years ago and testified against it. The group opposed it this year, but didn’t testify. They weren’t even in the room during the two public hearings. That’s usually Statehouse code for “we got the best, least offensive deal possible.”
* The new amendment gives victims some more rights, including…
The right to be heard at any post-arraignment court proceeding in which a right of the victim is at issue and any court proceeding involving a post-arraignment release decision, plea, or sentencing
They also would now have the right to be notified of the conviction, sentence, etc., instead of just the right to the information.
* There’s also this…
The right to have the safety of the victim and the victim’s family considered in denying or fixing the amount of bail, determining whether to release the defendant, and setting conditions of release after arrest and conviction.
* But while the victims are given standing, there are clear restrictions…
The victim has standing to assert the rights enumerated in subsection (a) in any court exercising jurisdiction over the case. The court shall promptly rule on a victim’s request.
The victim does not have party status. The accused does not have standing to assert the rights of a victim. The court shall not appoint an attorney for the victim under this Section.
Nothing in this Section shall be construed to alter the powers, duties, and responsibilities of the prosecuting attorney. […]
Nothing in this Section or any law enacted under this Section creates a cause of action in equity or at law for compensation, attorney’s fees, or damages against the State, a political subdivision of the State, an officer, employee, or agent of the State or of any political subdivision of the State, or an officer or employee of the court.
These are all quite reasonable changes and that’s why it was overwhelmingly approved by both chambers.
* And, believe it or not, big kudos go to Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez. Alvarez led the charge against this effort two years ago, but when changes were made and AG Madigan convinced her to switch positions she forcefully argued for the new draft. She even reportedly convinced DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin to back off his opposition. Berlin also hotly opposed the effort to amend the Constitution two years ago.