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It’s been all over the news, vote “yes”, for Marsy’s Law, vote “no” for Marsy’s Law.  How do you know what you should do when you go to the polls this November? In this article we will take a critical look at the law surrounding Marsy’s Law so you can understand it.  Let’s start at the beginning: What is Marsy’s Law?

Marsy

The story began in 1983 when University of California student, Marsalee (Marsy) Ann Nicholas was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend.  By all accounts, Marsy was a beautiful and loving young woman, helpful and a joy to be around.  Her life was cut short at 21 by her ex-boyfriend who took advantage of her trusting nature.  But the story doesn’t end there.  Although her killer was arrested and booked on charges of murder immediately, he was released on bond.

A week later, Marsy’s mother was confronted in a grocery store by the accused killer. She had no idea that he had been released from jail.  Needless to say, she was horrified.  How could someone who had murdered her daughter this viciously be released on bond, and she not at least be notified? This began their campaign to advocate for the rights of victims, stating that while criminals have a large number of rights, the victims have none.

Marsy’s Law

in essence, the law was created to provide a way for victims to be present at all proceedings concerning the accused, the right to be notified of these proceedings as well as any dispositions concerning the accused.  Several states passed a version of this law in the 1990’s, giving rights to the victims for the first time.

Georgia’s Victims Rights GA Code § 17-17-1 (2017)

The State of Georgia protects the rights of victims through its Bill known as the Crime Victim Bill of Rights.  It is not part of the State Constitution.  It is a separate statute in the code.  It provides for the following:

  • (1) The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any scheduled court proceedings or any changes to such proceedings;
  • (2) The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of the arrest, release, or escape of the accused;
  • (3) The right not to be excluded from any scheduled court proceedings, except as provided in this chapter or as otherwise required by law;
  • (4) The right to be heard at any scheduled court proceedings involving the release, plea, or sentencing of the accused;
  • (5) The right to file a written objection in any parole proceedings involving the accused;
  • (6) The right to confer with the prosecuting attorney in any criminal prosecution related to the victim;
  • (7) The right to restitution as provided by law;
  • (8) The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay; and
  • (9) The right to be treated fairly and with dignity by all criminal justice agencies involved in the case.

However, there is currently a section in the Georgia Code GA Code § 17-17-15 (2017)  which states that failure to provide timely notification to victims of a crime shall not subject that person to liability.  Proponents of the new SB127 (“Marsy’s Law”) say this would remedy that issue by amending the current law.

Pros & Cons

Proponents of the November ballot for adding Marsy’s Law state that adding this to the Georgia constitution will:

  • Provide for stronger belief in the rights of victims by having it as part of the State constitution.
  • Just as those who have violated the laws have rights outlined in the State constitution, this will provide the same for victims.

Those who stand against this measure state that:

  • by voting for this measure will in turn result in higher costs to victims who need attorneys;
  • and infringe on the rights of those accused of crimes.

Your Vote Matters

Regardless of which way you decide to vote, your voice matters.  Spend a bit of time doing research on this highly publicized issue and vote.  It is important that both victims and the accused have rights in Georgia and our law is only as strong as our votes.

David Crawford is an Atlanta based attorney who practices law focused on protecting rights of those accused of crime and victims of elder abuse.  If you have recently received a speeding ticket, arrested for a non-violent crime or are the victim of nursing home abuse, contact our office.  David Crawford is and experienced attorney with compassion but he also fights aggressively for his clients and is a powerful litigator in the courtroom. He’s in for the fight and doesn’t stop until he gets his clients justice.

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