An initiative organized by a California billionaire to enshrine victims’ rights in state constitutions, “Marsy’s Law” has already passed via referendum in six states since 2008 and it is being considered by six more in November: Florida, Georgia. Kentucky, North Carolina, Nevada, and Oklahoma.
These measures, which are broadly but not entirely similar, strengthen victims’ ability to testify at hearings, mandate that they be notified of certain developments, and often empower them to refuse to speak with defense attorneys; they also broaden who is classified as a victim. Critics argue that these measures promote punitive outcomes and harm defendants’ right and due process, as Meaghan Ybos reported for The Appeal in March and Sophie Quinton for Stateline in October. For instance, they have extended pretrial detentions because of the mandate that those classified as victims be notified prior to a release; they have empowered prosecutors to target investigators who seek to get in contact with victims, rendering it more arduous to mount a defense; and they have constrained appeals within time limits.
Past Marsy’s Laws have occasioned legal battles, most notably in California over a provision that lengthens the time between parole hearings, and Montana, whose Supreme Court overturned the law in 2017 for doing too many things at once.
Update: All six states that voted on Marsy’s Law on Nov. 6 adopted it, though there are legal questions about whether Kentucky’s version will be implemented. Melissa Mira Grant writes about these results in The Appeal.