What is Marsy’s Law?

There are two proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot this November in Kentucky. Proposed constitutional amendment no. 1, also known as Marsy’s Law, would, if enacted, make sweeping changes to Kentucky criminal procedure regarding a victim’s participation in the accused’s criminal proceedings.

Does Kentucky already protect victims’ rights?

Yes it does. Critics of the proposed amendment point out that, in 1986, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a series of laws now referred to as the Kentucky Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights. Generally, where a victim requests, it requires prosecutors to provide notice prior of certain proceedings, and it requires them to consult with the victim before taking certain steps to dispose of the accused’s case, such as through a negotiated plea. The laws also provide victims with access to victims advocates who consult with them during the proceedings, and it allows them to submit impact statements before courts impose sentences.

The Origins of Marsy’s Law.

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsy Nicholas, who was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend while she was a student at UC Santa Barbara in 1983. Her murderer received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after seventeen years. Her family remained involved in the subsequent parole hearings, and her brother, Henry Nicholas, helped organize the effort that led to California adopting Marsy’s Law as an amendment to its constitution in 2008. To date, at least seventeen other states have passed, or attempted to pass, Marsy’s Law as amendments to their state constitutions.

What does Marsy’s Law do?

 If voters approve the measure, it will amend Kentucky’s constitution to require courts to provide notice to victims, upon their request, of all proceedings in the accused’s case. In addition, the amendment will give victims broad rights to appear, with their own attorney, at virtually any stage of the accused’s criminal proceedings, with the exception of grand jury proceedings. It also requires courts to consider the safety of the victim and his or her family in setting bail or any conditions of release.

Critics of the proposed amendment argue it will unduly impact the accused’s constitutional right to due process. Proponents of the measure argue it will further protect crime victims by granting them specific rights under Kentucky’s constitution.

While the fate of Marsy’s Law hinges on the outcome of the upcoming election, GMA’s attorneys are prepared to advise their clients about its impacts on their clients’ cases. Please contact one of GMA’s attorneys today if you have any questions.

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