Marsy's Law provides rights to victims and their families that they did not previously have before.
As of 2018, there are more than 20 individual rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution that protect criminals, while there are zero that protect the rights of crime victims and their family members. Every state constitution also defines protections to which criminals are entitled, while nearly a third still define zero rights for victims. Until recently, Georgia was one of those states. However, in the November 4th election, the majority of Georgia's voting residents approved Amendment 4 or Marsy's Law , which sought to elevate crime victims' rights to a Constitutional level. What does that mean for victims and their families? It means that they will finally be afforded the same protections afforded to criminals, and they will finally be treated with dignity and respect within the federal and state justice systems. It also means that they will have a say when it comes to the bail and release conditions of accused criminals, and that courts will be required to consider the safety of victims' and their loved ones before allowing a potentially dangerous person to walk the streets.
The Origin of Marsy's Law
In 1983, Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas, a vibrant young student of the University of California Santa Barbara, was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend. A week after the murder, Marsy's mother and brother, Dr. Nicholas, had the misfortune of running into the accused murderer at the grocery store. The pair experienced a new kind of pain and suffering that no aggrieved loved one should ever have to experience. The family had no idea that the man had been released on bail, a decision they believe they should have been a part of. The Nicholas family's story is not dissimilar from that of other victims' families. It is not uncommon—nay, it is the norm—for judges and other relevant parties to release accused criminals without ever informing the families of their decisions. Though these parties are well-meaning, there is nothing in the law that obligates them to inform interested parties that a potentially dangerous person is free to roam the community. The passage of Marsy's Law has changed this is multiple states, including but not limited to South Dakota, Ohio, California, Illinois, North Dakota, and now, thankfully, Georgia. Victims of violent crimes and their loved ones must now be treated with the same level of respect and dignity typically afforded to just those being tried for crimes. When setting bail, criminal law judges are required, by law, to first consider how a defendant's release may impact the safety and well-being of the victim and/or his or her loved ones. They must also listen to what victims and their families have to say in bail hearings and pleas, sentencing, and parole hearings.
Learn More About Marsy's Law
At Ghanayem & Rayasam , our criminal defense attorneys firmly stand on the sides of the accused. Part of our job as criminal defense lawyers is to inform defendants and their families of their rights as well as the rights of those they are up against. With the passage of Amendment 4, the accused have yet another hurdle to overcome. If you were accused of a crime in Georgia, our team will stand by your side and aggressively advocate for YOUR rights. To see if our firm is a good fit for you, contact us today.