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Consequences: Problems with Marsy's Law

March 14. 2018 11:45PM

If states are laboratories of democracy, then they must learn from each others’ failures as well as their successes.

A California man is trying to get states across the country to copy a victims’ rights amendment he helped push into law in California.

Several states have adopted Marsy’s Law as constitutional amendments, and are discovering this comes with unintended consequences.

The Montana Supreme Court threw out that state’s referendum on Marsy’s Law because the question was improperly worded. But South Dakota had a disastrous experience with the amendment itself.

The amendment’s vague guarantee of privacy for crime victims created some of those unintended consequences. Police shut down public access to accident reports, which caused havoc with insurance companies’ ability to process claims. Some police departments even stopped notifying the public where crimes had been committed.

The amendment requires that a victim be notified when a defendant or convict is transferred or released. But it makes no provision for when that victim cannot be reached, forcing inmates who should be released to languish behind bars.

South Dakota had so many problems with Marsy’s Law that its legislature has now proposed amending the amendment. Victims’ rights may be further addressed in state statute, where such issues should be resolved.

New Hampshire should learn from South Dakota’s experience.

Otherwise, we would be doomed to repeat it.

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