The idea of a Victim’s Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution isn’t something entirely new, nor is it radical.
In 1982, then-President Ronald Reagan established the Task Force on Victims of Crime. The goal was to “address the needs of the millions of Americans and their families who are victimized by crime every year.” As the Task Force noted of the criminal justice system, “the system has deprived the innocent, the honest, and the helpless of its protection.”
Further, the Task Force found “the victims of crime have been transformed into a group oppressively burdened by a system designed to protect them. This oppression must be redressed.” For that reason, the Task Force recommended augmenting the 6th Amendment, one of the original Bill of Rights, to include protections for crime victims.
The 6th Amendment was designed to provide protections to those accused of crimes, including the right to a public trial, the right to an impartial jury, the right to an attorney and the right to know who their accuser is.
Victims of crime are afforded no such protections or rights.
We can all agree that no rapist should have more rights than the victim. No murderer should be afforded more rights than the victim’s family. Marsy’s Law would ensure that victims have the same “co-equal” rights as the accused and convicted – nothing more, nothing less.
A Constitutional Amendment for victims’ rights would guarantee equal rights to crime victims:
- Victims and their families would receive information about their rights and the services available to them.
- They would have the right to receive notification of proceedings and major developments in the criminal case.
- They would have the right to receive timely notifications changes to the offender’s custodial status.
- Victims and their families would have the right to be present at court proceedings and provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized.
- They would have the right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings or any process that may result in the offender’s release.
- Finally, they would have the right to restitution.
How Is The Constitution Amended?
According to the National Archives and Records Administration’s Federal Register, which oversees the amendment process:
“The authority to amend the Constitution of the United States is derived from Article V of the Constitution. After Congress proposes an amendment, the Archivist of the United States, who heads the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), is charged with responsibility for administering the ratification process under the provisions of 1 U.S.C. 106b. The Archivist has delegated many of the ministerial duties associated with this function to the Director of the Federal Register. Neither Article V of the Constitution nor section 106b describe the ratification process in detail. The Archivist and the Director of the Federal Register follow procedures and customs established by the Secretary of State, who performed these duties until 1950, and the Administrator of General Services, who served in this capacity until NARA assumed responsibility as an independent agency in 1985.”
“The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. None of the 27 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed by constitutional convention. The Congress proposes an amendment in the form of a joint resolution. Since the President does not have a constitutional role in the amendment process, the joint resolution does not go to the White House for signature or approval. The original document is forwarded directly to NARA’s Office of the Federal Register (OFR) for processing and publication. The OFR adds legislative history notes to the joint resolution and publishes it in slip law format. The OFR also assembles an information package for the States which includes formal “red-line” copies of the joint resolution, copies of the joint resolution in slip law format, and the statutory procedure for ratification under 1 U.S.C. 106b.”
“The Archivist submits the proposed amendment to the States for their consideration by sending a letter of notification to each Governor along with the informational material prepared by the OFR. The Governors then formally submit the amendment to their State legislatures. In the past, some State legislatures have not waited to receive official notice before taking action on a proposed amendment. When a State ratifies a proposed amendment, it sends the Archivist an original or certified copy of the State action, which is immediately conveyed to the Director of the Federal Register. The OFR examines ratification documents for facial legal sufficiency and an authenticating signature. If the documents are found to be in good order, the Director acknowledges receipt and maintains custody of them. The OFR retains these documents until an amendment is adopted or fails, and then transfers the records to the National Archives for preservation.”
“A proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the States (38 of 50 States). When the OFR verifies that it has received the required number of authenticated ratification documents, it drafts a formal proclamation for the Archivist to certify that the amendment is valid and has become part of the Constitution. This certification is published in the Federal Register and U.S. Statutes at Large and serves as official notice to the Congress and to the Nation that the amendment process has been completed.”
Source: The National Archives’ Federal Register website.
Did You Know?
“Some delegates to the Constitutional Convention had suggested adding a Bill of Rights to the Constitution, but the idea generated little support. When opponents of the Constitution used the lack of a Bill of Rights to whip up opposition to ratification the issue resurfaced. Several states adopted the new Constitution because its supporters promised that Congress would take up the issue and amend the Constitution.”
“Representative James Madison of Virginia had originally thought a Bill of Rights was unnecessary, but by the time of the First Congress he realized that such amendments were a political necessity. On June 8, 1789, with the support of President Washington, Madison proposed several amendments on the House floor. In September, after reorganizing the proposals several times, Congress submitted 12 amendments for ratification. On December 15, 1791, Virginia became the 11th state to ratify 10 of the 12 proposed. These became the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The two that failed dealt with the size of the House and with congressional pay raises. The latter, however, was eventually ratified by the states in 1992 and became the 27th Amendment to the Constitution.”
Source: The National Archives’ Federal Register website.
On December 15, 1791, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, also known as the Bill of Rights, were finally ratified.
Amendment 13, abolishing slavery, was ratified on December 6, 1865.
- “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Amendment 19, guaranteeing women the right to vote, was ratified on August 18, 1920.
- “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Amendment 22, prohibiting anyone from serving as President of the United States more than twice, was ratified on February 27, 1951.
- “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.”
The last time the Constitution was amended, the 26th Amendment, was July 1, 1971.
The 27th Amendment, ratified on May 7, 1992, was originally proposed on September 25, 1789.
There are a total of 27 Amendments to the Constitution.
Source: The National Archives website.
Violent Crime In The United States: Did You Know?
Did you know, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) most recent “Crime in the United States” report, that in the United States there were:
- 1,163,146 violent crimes committed in 2013.
- 14,196 murders and non-negligent manslaughters committed in 2013.
- 79,770 rapes committed in 2013.
- 345,031 robberies committed in 2013.
- 724,149 aggravated assaults committed in 2013.
Source: Crime in the United States, By State, 2013, Federal Bureau of Investigation website.
Did you know that in 2013:
- “A violent crime occurred every 27.1 seconds.”
- There was “one murder every 37 minutes”
- There was “one rape every 6.6 minutes.”
- There was “one robbery every 1.5 minutes.”
- There was “one aggravated assault every 43.5 seconds.”
Source: Crime in the United States, 2013 Crime3 Clock Statistics, 2013, Federal Bureau of Investigation website.