Making Victims’ Rights a Reality

Marsy’s Law for Illinois, known as HJRCA 1, is a constitutional amendment that seeks to protect and give voice to thousands of crime victims in our State. It would reform and provide mechanisms for enforcement of the 1992 version of Victims Rights provisions in Article I, Section 8.1 of the Illinois Constitution.

The Illinois Constitution currently guarantees crime victims certain rights, but these rights are technically unenforceable, making them ineffective and weak. Illinois is the only state that actually bars the enforcement of victims’ rights.

Just as an offender has a remedy when the offender’s constitutional or statutory rights are violated, a victim should have a remedy when the victim’s constitutional or statutory right is violated.

Crime Victims Need Enforceable Rights and a Remedy for Violations

Crime victims are central to the criminal justice process.  These are the people who have been battered, raped, abused and whose family members have been murdered.  Often, however, victims are ignored or even excluded throughout the criminal justice process.

A Clear Set of Enforceable Rights

The HJRCA 1 amendment proposes that crime victims are:

  • Guaranteed the right to be informed of court proceedings
  • Guaranteed the right to be present at trials and hearings regarding their case
  • Guaranteed the right to present a written statement to the court about the impact a violent crime has
    had on them
  • Provided greater access to post trial proceedings
  • Guaranteed timely action on victims’ request
  • Allowed to appeal decisions that affect the exercise of their personal rights

How Victims Will Enforce Their Rights

This resolution gives crime victims the right to go to court and ask that the right they were denied be enforced.  The resolution also requires the court to act promptly on such a request.  For example, if a victim is not allowed to make a victim impact statement at a sentencing hearing, the court could order that the hearing be held again.

The Federal Government and Other States Have Statutory and Constitutional Enforcement Provisions and Remedies for Violations

Other states, including California, Arizona and Oregon recently have passed similar constitutional amendments making victims’ rights enforceable.  Many states already have enforcement language in their victims’ rights statutes.  In 2004, Congress passed the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, providing victims of federal crimes extensive rights and means of redress if those rights are violated.  Illinois is behind nationally on this key movement to make crime victims’ rights enforceable.  Federal and state courts have held that honoring the rights of crime victims does not affect a defendant’s rights.

For More Information, contact:

Cindy Hora, Office of the Illinois Attorney General, 312-814-1427
Polly Poskin or Claudia Castro, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 217-753-4117
Jennifer Bishop Jenkins, Marsy’s Law for Illinois 312-882-4584