With legal protections written into the United States Constitution, as well as state laws, criminal defendants have for decades had more legal protections than the legal protections afforded to crime victims and the families of crime victims. In honor of a California student whose ex-boyfriend stalked and murdered her, Marsy’s Law has made California one of the leading states for promoting victims’ rights. It is essential to understand how the landmark victims’ rights law protects crime victims and their families.
Marsy’s Tragic Story
Marsalee (Marsy) Nichols lost her life in 1983. The senseless murder committed by her ex-boyfriend left Marcy’s family devastated. To make matters worse, the ex-boyfriend confronted Marsy’s mother and brother at a grocery store just a week after the horrible crime. Marsy’s family did not receive news about the release of the ex-boyfriend from jail. The incredible pain generated by the confrontation at the grocery led Marcy’s family on a crusade to protect the victims and the families of victims because of the commission of a crime.
California Victims’ Bill of Rights
Many Marsy’s law attorneys in California refer to the monumental law as the California victim’s Bill of Rights. Enacted in 2008, Marsy’s Law contains several influential provisions that have become the model for similar legislation passed in other states. The California criminal justice system must treat the victims of crimes and their families with “respect and dignity.” Safety must play an important role in determining the sentences handed down to criminal defendants. Perhaps the most important provision mandates courts to allow the family members of crime victims to testify at sentencings, bail hearings, and parole hearings.
Here are the most impactful provisions written into Marsy’s Law:
- Judge must consider victim safety when establishing bail
- Victim and family must be notified of any plea bargain or other type of resolution
- Victims and their families must be “reasonably protected from the defendant and persons acting on behalf of defendant.”
- Prevent the disclosure of confidential information such as medical and counseling records
- Victim has the right to refuse an interview or a deposition for fear of intimidation
- The court shall communicate all notices that pertain to all public proceedings
- Victim and/or victim’s family can testify at any post-trial legal proceeding
- The right to a speedy trial
- Provide information to the California Division of Adult Parole Operations concerning a pre-sentence investigation into the impact of a crime on a victim and the victim’s family
- Receive the Pre-sentence report when it is available for the defendant to read
- Receive updates on the conviction, sentencing, and incarceration information that includes the pending release of the criminal defendant from prison
Contact a California Marsy’s Law Attorney
Victims of crime deal with a wide range of emotions that include fear, depression, acute anxiety, and immense anger. For years, victims of crimes in California and every other state had to fight an uphill legal battle to have their rights protected by the judicial system. Marsy’s Law has evened the legal playing field in California between criminal defendants and the people that they hurt.
As a former federal prosecutor, Michael L. Fell empathizes with the roller coaster range of emotions felt by crime victims and their families. Michael’s has formed a supportive team of victims’ rights advocates that ensures crime victims and their families receive all the rights granted by the groundbreaking statute called Marsy’s law.