Business Owners Are Not “Victims” Under Current Law
Businesses in South Dakota are not protected by current law when it comes to victim rights. Every day, business owners in South Dakota are victims of crimes like theft, fraud, forgery, embezzlement, vandalism, and 2nd or 3rd-degree burglary. However, under current South Dakota law, those business owners do not qualify as “victims” under the legal definition. Therefore, they have no rights under the South Dakota Victims Act. They have no right to be notified about important hearings in the criminal justice process, no right to be present at those hearings and no right to be heard at those hearing. They have no right to receive law enforcement reports and no right to confer with a prosecutor about a plea bargain.
Under current law, business owners won’t even be able to utilize the new Statewide Automated Victim Information Notification (SAVIN) system because they are not considered victims. This new system would automatically give business owners important information about their case, notification for hearings, and notification when criminals are released from custody.
Marsy’s Law will recognize that business owners are indeed “victims” and give them the rights they deserve. The new SAVIN system will enable the state to grant such rights without any significant costs because the automated system is already paid for and, for a very minimal cost, it can simply be expanded to include all crimes, not just crimes of violence. Expanding the SAVIN system to all crimes and all victims will provide a valuable service to thousands of crime victims in South Dakota every year.
South Dakota has some of the weakest crime victim laws in the nation. This is especially true for business owners in our state. We are one of the last remaining states to pass constitutional rights for crime victims. It is time to give crime victims the equal rights they deserve. Vote Yes on S in November.