South Dakota Needs To Strengthen Crime Victim Laws

April 10-16 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week which is a time to honor and remember people who have become victims of crime. Every year thousands of South Dakotans become victims of crime and suffer emotional, physical, psychological, and financial harm as a result of criminal activity. Last year, over 44,000 serious criminal offenses were reported in South Dakota and over 20 million Americans became victims of crime.   

Unfortunately, South Dakota has some of the weakest crime victim laws in the nation. Thirty-two other states have granted constitutional rights to crime victims, but South Dakota remains one the last states to grant such rights. Criminals have extensive constitutional rights and their victims deserve to have equal rights. We can give victims the rights they deserve by passing Marsy’s Law (Amendment S) in November.

South Dakota has some statutory rights for crime victims, however, they are very limited and they are not enforceable. In Marbury v. Madison, the United States Supreme Court declared “The Government of the United States has been emphatically termed a government of laws, and not of men. It will certainly cease to deserve this high appellation if the laws furnish no remedy for the violation of a vested legal right.” The Court in Marbury relied on the legal principle that for every violation of a vested legal right, there must be a legal remedy. Under existing South Dakota law, victims’ rights are not enforceable because there are no legal remedies if they are violated. Therefore, they are not really rights.

Marsy’s Law is a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights that will give victims enforceable rights guaranteed by the state constitution and provide remedies that can be applied by the court. It will strengthen and expand existing rights so that all victims of crime receive notification of criminal proceedings, the right to be heard in any proceeding, and the right to notification when an offender is released from custody. Marsy’s Law will ensure crime victims have a meaningful role throughout the criminal justice systems and it will ensure that crime victims’ rights are protected by law in a manner no less vigorous than the protections afforded to criminal defendants.

I started my legal career as a prosecutor because I wanted to help people-especially victims of crime. I am now proud to be fighting for crime victims again in my role as the State Director for the Marsy’s Law for South Dakota campaign. The theme for this year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is “Serving Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope.” The best way we can serve crime victims in South Dakota is to pass Marsy’s Law. Please help crime victims and Vote Yes on S in November. 

Jason Glodt, Marsy’s Law for South Dakota State Director