Q: I called the police because of a domestic violence incident I was involved in. They came to my house and arrested my now ex-boyfriend. The officer was extremely thoughtful and patient with me, even though I was a bit hysterical. When the officer left, he gave me a business card and explained that I have certain rights because I was a victim of a crime. The back of the business card said “The Victim’s Bill of Rights Act of 2008: Marsy’s Law.” It’s comforting to know I have rights, but I can’t remember everything the officer told me. Can you explain what exactly Marsy’s Law is?
A: Thank you for your question and I’m sorry to hear you were a victim of domestic violence. It is unfortunate that people still suffer at the hands of their loved ones. I’m more than happy to explain Marsy’s Law. Before we get into what Marsy’s Law is, let’s first understand why it came about.
Dr. Henry T. Nicholas ultimately led the campaign to provide victims and their families certain rights that are guaranteed by law. Nicholas’ sister, Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas, was a beautiful and vibrant University of California Santa Barbara student, who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only a week after Marsy was murdered, Marsy’s mother, Marcella Leach, walked into a grocery store after visiting her daughter’s grave and was confronted by the accused murderer. She had no idea he had been released on bail.
She was not informed because the courts and law enforcement had no obligation to keep the family informed. Accused criminals have more than 20 individual rights spelled out in the U.S. Constitution, but the surviving family members of murder victims had none. Nicholas said:
“If any good can come of something this horrible — the loss of my sister and the losses of other families of crime victims — it is that these violent acts served as a catalyst for change. Marsy’s Law will provide for a more compassionate justice system for crime victims in California and make that a constitutional guarantee. Now the momentum can be put behind a U.S. Constitutional amendment so that the rights of all crime victims, anywhere in America, can be protected.”
Marsy’s Law was approved by California voters on Nov. 4, 2008 under the name of Proposition 9. Although I could translate how the law reads into layman’s terms for better understanding, I would rather sift through the pages of legal terminology and quote the 17 rights as it pertains to the victims of crime. California Constitution, Article 1, Section 28(b) states: In order to preserve and protect a victim’s rights to justice and due process, a victim shall be entitled to the following rights:
• To be treated with fairness and respect for his or her privacy and dignity, and to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse, throughout the criminal or juvenile justice process.
• To be reasonably protected from the defendant and persons acting on behalf of the defendant.
• To have the safety of the victim and the victim’s family considered in fixing the amount of bail and release conditions for the defendant.
• To prevent the disclosure of confidential information or records to the defendant, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant, which could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family or which disclose confidential communications made in the course of medical or counseling treatment, or which are otherwise privileged or confidential by law.
• To refuse an interview, deposition, or discovery request by the defendant, or any other person acting on behalf of the defendant, and to set reasonable conditions on the conduct of any such interview to which the victim consents.
• To reasonable notice of and to reasonably confer with the prosecuting agency, upon request, regarding, the arrest of the defendant if known by the prosecutor, the charges filed, the determination whether to extradite the defendant, and, upon request, to be notified of and informed before any pretrial disposition of the case.
• To reasonable notice of all public proceedings, including delinquency proceedings, upon request, at which the defendant and the prosecutor are entitled to be present and of all parole or other post-conviction release proceedings, and to be present at all such proceedings.
• To be heard, upon request, at any proceeding, including any delinquency proceeding, in which a right of the victim is at issue.
• To a speedy trial and a prompt and final conclusion of the case and any related post-judgment proceedings.
• To provide information to a probation department official conducting a pre-sentence investigation concerning the impact of the offense on the victim and the victim’s family and any sentencing recommendations before the sentencing of the defendant.
• To receive, upon request, the pre-sentence report when available to the defendant, except for those portions made confidential by law.
• To be informed, upon request, of the conviction, sentence, place and time of incarceration, or other disposition of the defendant, the scheduled release date of the defendant, and the release of or the escape by the defendant from custody.
• To restitution.
• To the prompt return of property when no longer needed as evidence.
• To be informed of all parole procedures, to participate in the parole process, to provide information to the parole authority to be considered before the parole of the offender, and to be notified, upon request, of the parole or other release of the offender.
• To have the safety of the victim, the victim’s family, and the general public considered before any parole or other post-judgment release decision is made.
• To be informed of the rights enumerated in paragraphs 1-16.
I know this is a lot of information, but hopefully you now understand the long overdue rights provided to the victims of crimes. In conjunction with Marsy’s Law you can also obtain assistance from Sojourn (assistance for battered women and children) at (310) 264-6644, Rape Treatment Center at (310) 319-4000 and the Department of Children and Family Services at (800) 540-4000. Remember if you are a victim of a crime and it is an emergency, please call 911. If it is a non-emergency please call our non-emergency line at (310)458-8491.
This column was prepared by Neighborhood Resource Officer Richard “Rick” Verbeck, Beat 4 (Montana Avenue to Interstate 10, 20th Street to Ocean Avenue, excluding Downtown). He can be reached at (424) 200-0684.