COLUMBUS – Legislation to ensure victims are treated fairly and consistently across our state’s criminal justice system and given the full opportunity to exercise their rights passed the House Floor recently by an overwhelming majority, 84-1.
The legislation will align Ohio’s laws and criminal justice system practices with the enhanced protections provided for victims and their loved ones in the “Marsy’s Law” constitutional amendment that 83% of Ohioans overwhelmingly supported in November of 2017.
“House Bill 343 guarantees that victims will now have expanded rights, while putting standards and guardrails in place to help protect and enforce those rights at every step of the criminal justice process,” said Representative Andrea White (R-Kettering), the bill’s sponsor.
While the legislation is indeed a Victims’ Rights Bill, it must be workable in our justice system, said White. A key overarching principle in Marsy’s Law is to ensure that victims are able to understand, exercise and enforce their rights afforded them by the Ohio Constitution. Equally important is the fact that all parties in the criminal justice system must know these rights, respect each victim’s choices, and be engaged in uniform procedures so that the rights of everyone can be balanced and protected throughout the criminal justice process.
“Justice for crime victims should not depend on where you live. That’s why this legislation is needed now – to make sure victims are treated fairly and consistently across our state’s criminal justice system,” said White, “that they are not only told their rights but given the full opportunities to exercise them, and to have recourse if those rights are violated,” said White. “Consistently balancing the rights of victims, the accused and the state is essential to preserving the foundations of justice for all – whether you’re from Cleveland, Coshocton or Clark County.”
Marsy’s Law ensures that victims of crime and their families are treated with fairness and respect for their safety, dignity and privacy; and that they have guaranteed rights on the same level as those accused and convicted of crimes. At the core of the legislation is the Victim’s Rights Request Form that will be used across all agencies and will be provided to victims of a crime at the earliest contact with law enforcement. This form will be used to help victims know and invoke their rights, while informing prosecutors, defense, courts and custodial agencies of victims’ choices throughout the trial and post-conviction process.
House Bill 343 will now awaits assignment to committee in the Senate.