Marsy's Law, a victims’ rights constitutional amendment, bestows upon crime victims a vast array of often vague, difficult and costly to administer rights, including extensive notification, involvement, privacy, and restitution provisions, and enshrines them in state constitutions. This amendment has far-reaching consequences for state criminal legal systems across the country.
In 2018, NACDL conducted a social media campaign urging individuals to oppose Marsy's Law in several states, including Kentucky, where it was on the ballot. A Marsy's Law Amendment was approved in 2018 by Kentucky voters but was overturned in KACDL (Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers) v. Grimes and Board of Elections. In 2020, the Marsy's Law appeared again on the ballot as Kentucky Constitutional Amendment 1 after the legislature required the full text of the amendment to be included on the ballots. The amendment passed with 63.36% of the vote. In April 2022, the Kentucky Supreme Court dismissed a legal challenge to Marsy's Law filed by KACDL. The results of the 2020 vote are still pending certification by the State Board of Elections.
Marsy's Law panel
19th Annual State Criminal Justice Network Conference
August 17-19, 2020 | Held Virtually
Moderator: Monica Reid, Director of Advocacy, NACDL
Jerome F. Buting, Partner, Buting, Williams & Stilling, S.C.
Laura Hessburg, Public Policy Director, Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Jackson J. Lofgren, Suhr & Lofgren PLLC, North Dakota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Senator John Schickel, Kentucky State Senate
Advocacy Call on Marsy’s Law
Marsy's Law seeks to give crime victims legal standing in bail hearings, pleas, sentencing, and parole hearings. It also allows crime victims to refuse an interview or other discovery requests made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused. The Law has passed in several states including California, Illinois, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. In North Dakota, issues with interpreting and implementing the law as it relates to the discovery process have been reported. Other states have experienced similar issues.
NACDL hosted a National Advocacy Call on Developing Legislation on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 12:00 p.m. EST. The discussion focused on how state advocates can help stave off the aggressive proponents of this legislation. Speakers included: Barry Wilford, partner with the law firm Kura, Wilford & Schregardus Co. , L.P.A; Mark Friese, criminal defense lawyers from Bismarck, North Dakota; and Garrick Byers, a former public defender for 33 years in Contra Costa and Fresno Counties.
Learn more about NACDL's State Criminal Justice Network. Angelyn C. Frazer-Giles, Host. Doug Shaner, production supervisor. Music I Will! Rise Above (Jared C. Balogh) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0.
Marsy’s Law Resources
Despite overwhelming legal opposition, voters gave crime victims their own bill of rights
Victims’ rights law unfairly limits parole hearings, judge rules (California)
City, county attorneys working to comply with Marsy’s Law (Montana)
Devil is in details of Marsy’s Law (Montana)
An IR View: Marsy’s Law is not the answer (Montana)
Public defender says Marsy’s Law complicates efforts to defend her client (North Dakota)
Marsy’s Law cost estimated at $2M per year (North Dakota)
Mark Friese: “Marsy’s Law” ballot measure is a bad idea (North Dakota)
As victims’ rights law makes ballot, other states grapple with pitfalls (Oklahoma)
The billionaire behind ‘Marsy’s Law’ effort (Oklahoma)
Journal Time Editorial: A fair trial first, then victims’ rights (Wisconsin)
Montana Supreme Court: Marsy’s Law Initiative was unconstitutional (Montana)
States with Marsy’s Law:
North Dakota (2016)
South Dakota (2016)
North Carolina (2018)
Voters in Montana and Kentucky also approved Marsy's Law measures in their perspective states. However, the Supreme Courts in each state declared Marsy's Law to be unconstitutional. Read more: Montana; Kentucky.
Statement of estimated fiscal impact of constitution measure No. 3, Victims’ Rights Amendment - $4.0 million in additional expenditures for the 2017-19 biennium (prepared by the Office of Management and Budget)
One-time funding of $815,000 is added for the statewide automated victim information and notification (SAVIN) program enhancement project. The enhancements will upgrade the SAVIN program so that it is able to provide the notification necessary to comply with Section 25 of Article I of the Constitution of North Dakota, also known as Marsy’s Law. Resources:
Statement of Purpose of Amendment for House Bill No. 1003;
65th Legislative Assembly State Budget Actions for the 2017-2019 Biennium: page 56 - $315,000 appropriation for the SAVIN program; page 57 - additional $500,000 for the SAVIN program enhancements.
$158,000 increase for software upgrades for the statewide automated victim information and notification system due to passage of Marsy’s Law. Resources: Fiscal note for SB 32, general appropriations act for FY 2017 – page 2.
Estimated costs to the courts of $16.4 million in FY 2018-19 and $30.5 million annually in subsequent years for additional district attorney staff. Click here for full report on the fiscal impact.