CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Nationally the amendment is referred to as Marsy’s Law, but on the North Carolina ballot, it’s listed on simply as a constitutional amendment to “strengthen protections for victims of crime.”
So, what does that mean? Well, North Carolina already has a victims’ rights amendment, but Marsy’s Law would expand upon that to add more notification, more hearing opportunities for victims, and the measure would also cover a wider array of crimes.
Republican Senator Dan Bishop is in favor of the amendment, as are most in his party, and he says there are some distinct differences between existing legislation, and what’s being proposed.
“One of the fundamental ideas here is that victims have a right to notification of release, escape, parole and pardon. Another aspect is that there’s an enforcement mechanism for the first time,” said Bishop.
Both those for and against Marsy’s Law acknowledge that Mecklenburg County, and many counties throughout the state, are already doing much of what this amendment mandates. However, those advocating for the measure, say Marsy’s law goes a step further for victims.
“We have 100 counties in the state of North Carolina, and Mecklenburg County could be strong in this particular issue, but there are other counties that are not, so anytime we have the ability to strengthen victims rights in this state, I always think that it’s a good idea,” said Democratic Senator Joel Ford, who is one of the only democrats in favor of Marsy’s law.
On the other side, those opposed to the measure say Marsy’s law isn’t necessary with North Carolina’s existing victims’ protections, and critics believe the amendment has the potential to compound work for our courts, and clog up the criminal justice system.
“It’s already in the constitution, of the right for a victim to be notified about a whole list of things,” said Democratic Representative Kelly Alexander, who does not support the measure. “From a practical standpoint, it’s already difficult enough to keep track of everything. If you keep layering things it just becomes more difficult.”
The Director of North Carolina’s Conference of District Attorneys, Peg Dorer, agrees with Alexander’s standpoint. “Our concern about any of this has to do with resources. The DA has a limited number of resources, and so I think, just keeping up with it is going to be difficult. We’re going to make sure we have the victims service coordinators in place, and we currently have 150 of them across the state, but they’re grant funded and those grant dollars won’t last forever,” said Dorer.
All opinions aside, here are some of the main facts about Marsy’s Law in North Carolina:
The state already requires notification for victims on all proceedings in their case and notification when a criminal is released from prison, the requirements currently apply to domestic violence and major felony offenders.
If approved, Marsy’s Law would expand those requirements to apply to violent misdemeanors, felony property crimes, and some juvenile cases.
Victim’s would also have more opportunities to be heard in court, and they would also have more power in the case that they feel their rights aren’t being met.
For more information on the law, you can find the full language of the amendment can be found in the North Carolina voter’s guide here.