When someone becomes a victim of a crime, life gets put on hold.  Lives are destroyed, hearts are broken, and nothing is ever the same.  The law is designed to keep innocent citizens from being convicted, but often it fails at protecting the victims after the initial crime.  In California a law was proposed and approved in 2008 entitled, “Proposition 9—the Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008” or more informally as Marsy’s Law.  This act provides victims in the state of California with protection to ensure their rights to privacy and safety are guarded.

Included Rights and Protections

The list of rights includes freedom from intimidation or abuse, a right to privacy and dignity, reasonable protection from the alleged perpetrator and anyone acting on his or her behalf, consideration in the decision of bail or release of the defendant, the right of refusal for interviews or depositions with the defendant’s attorney, reasonable notice of the defendant’s arrest, reasonable notice of any and all public hearings, the right to be heard at any of the proceedings, a prompt conclusion to the case, the right to compose a victim impact statement for sentencing considerations, a copy of the pre-sentencing report, to receive information on the defendant’s incarceration and release, restitution, the return of property after its use as evidence, reasonable notice of parole hearings, for safety of the victim to be weighed in parole considerations, and to be notified of all the rights described in the Victim’s Bill of Rights Act.

Significance and Impact

Though it may seem repetitive, Marsy’s Law covers quite a lengthy list of rights and guarantees to victims of crime in California.  It details several areas of law that apply to the victim, including rights to be informed about hearings and sentencing, rights to have a voice in the process along the way, and the right to be notified if and when the perpetrator is released back into society.

These may not sound significant, but if you’ve been through a traumatic experience, it becomes a big deal to know that you will not be blindsided by your attacker at the grocery store.  It can also be a major part of the healing process to reclaim your voice and take part in the trial and sentencing by verbalizing the effects of the crime.

Origins and Background

Marsy’s Law takes its name from Marsy Nicholas, a senior at UC Santa Barbara was stalked and eventually murdered in 1983 by her former boyfriend, Kerry Conley.  Though he was convicted and sent to prison, her family faced a frustrating lack of legal protection.  As a result, her brother Henry Nicholas, an executive of Broadcom Corporation, was influential in the organization and sponsorship of Marsy’s Law.



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