OHIO VALLEY — Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved state issue one, Marsy’s Law, during the November election, but what impact with the measure have on the criminal justice system.
Known as the crime victim’s rights amendment to the constitution, Marsy’s Law provides that victims of crime receive the same rights as the individuals accused of committing the crimes.
Effective Feb. 5, 2018, victims of crime in the state of Ohio will have the following rights:
- To fair and respectful treatment of the victim’s safety, dignity and privacy;
- To be notified of, and the right to be present at, all public proceedings involving the criminal or delinquent conduct against the victim;
- To be heard in any public proceeding involving the release/bond, plea, sentencing, disposition or parole, or in which the victim’s rights are implicated. During the bond and arraignment hearings, the victim will have the right to address the court;
- To reasonable protection from the accused or person acting on behalf of the accused;
- To reasonable notice of any release or escape of the accused;
- To refuse discovery requests made by the accused, except as authorized by Article 1, Section 10;
- To full and timely restitution;
- To be free from unreasonable delay and prompt conclusion of the case;
- To petition the court of appeals in the applicable appellate district if the relief sought is denied.
Advocate Theda Petrasko explained that currently victims represented by the Meigs County Victim Assistance Office are contacted by letters of all upcoming hearings or by phone when a hearings is scheduled on short notice.
With the new law, one of the issues that will need to be worked out between local law enforcement and the Victim Assistance Office is the timing of which the victim assistance staff receives the name and contact information for the victim. The victim would have to be notified of the court appearance before the defendant can be brought to court for an initial appearance or arraignment hearing, said Petrasko.
Regarding the notice to victims of the release of a defendant, currently the victim assistance ofice is not notified if bond is posted in a case. As they are not notified, staff is unable to notify the victim. VINE (Victim Information Notification Everyday) information is provided to victims by officers, which allows for the victim to register for notifications regarding the release of a defendant. Petrasko noted that they are working to determine the best way for staff to be notified as well.
While the amendment calls for full and timely restitution, it is still unknown if the failure to pay restitution can lead to the filing of a probation violation. In the past, an indigent defendant could not be sent to prison on a probation violation for not paying restitution, said Petrasko.
It is up to the judge to determine what is considered an unreasonable delay in a court case.
The right for victims to appeal a decision is a new right which is granted under Mary’s Law.
Letters were sent from the prosecutor’s office to all of the local courts and law enforcement agencies describing the changes to the crime victim’s rights and what is needed from each agency to help be in compliance with the changes.
A portion of information provided by the Meigs County Prosecutor’s Office and Victim Assistance Office.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.