Victims’ rights legislation filed on Tuesday – House Bill 551 – has already received 75 sponsors and cosponsors in the state House – enough votes to qualify for a statewide vote to amend the state constitution to strengthen victims’ rights.
House Bill 551, sponsored by Reps. Nelson Dollar, Rena Turner, Destin Hall and Beverly Earle has quickly reached the level of support needed to qualify for a statewide constitutional amendment to strengthen North Carolina’s victim’s rights language.
The legislation, also known as Marsy’s Law, seeks to amend the state constitution to provide an equal level of constitutional protections to North Carolina crime victims that are already given to the accused and convicted.
A companion bill was filed on Tuesday in the Senate, Senate Bill 595, sponsored by Senators Brent Jackson, Tamara Barringer, and Warren Daniel.
More than eight in ten North Carolinians from across the political spectrum support amending the constitution to give victims stronger rights according to a recent survey of North Carolina voters. Nearly nine out of ten voters believe that crime victims should be guaranteed notification of a criminal’s bail, parole, release or escape and that victims, if they choose, have the constitutional right to speak at the bail or sentencing hearing.
Marsy’s Law for NC kicked off a campaign this week, during National Crime Victims’ Week, to begin the two-step process to amend the state constitution: the first step requires a bill passed by ⅗ of both chambers of the state Legislature to then send it to a statewide vote the following year.
The victims’ rights legislation has North Carolina-specific language that will focus on felonies and violent misdemeanors.
It will guarantee that victims receive certain rights in a number of important ways including:
- informing victims and their families about their rights and the services available to them,
- giving them the right to receive notification of proceedings and major developments in a criminal case,
- protecting their safety by notifying them in a timely manner regarding changes to the offender’s custodial status,
- allowing victims and their families to exercise their right to be present – and heard – at court proceedings,
- providing input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized; and
- establishing the right to restitution from the convicted.
Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom Corporation, has made it his mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights. He formed Marsy’s Law for All in 2009, providing expertise and resources to victims’ rights organizations nationwide.
Since California’s passage of the Victim’s Bill of Rights Act of 2008, Marsy’s Law legislation has also succeeded in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Illinois.