Two victims’ rights measures are still alive this session at the Hawaii Legislature, and one of them was passed with amendments by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means on Wednesday.
HB 1144 and SB 3034 propose an amendment to Article 1 of the state constitution to provide crime victims with “recognized and protected constitutional rights from the time of their victimization and continuing throughout the criminal justice process.”
Victims’ rights legislation is known throughout the United States as “Marsy’s Law.”
The bills were passed earlier this month by House and Senate judiciary committees.
Supporters of the bills say they establish victims’ rights at the same level as criminal defendants’ rights.
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HB 1144 would guarantee crime victims the right to be notified of major developments and proceedings in the resulting criminal case, to be present at court proceedings and to provide input to a prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized.
The measure also addresses the right to restitution, the right to be heard at any proceeding that may result in an offender’s release and the right to receive notice of an offender’s custodial status change.
SD 3034 would provide the crime victim or the family of a deceased crime victim’ similar rights in addition to having property their returned when it is no longer needed as evidence and having their safety be considered when determining the amount of bail and release conditions for the defendant.
“If the victim is not afforded the rights that are due by virtue of the state law and if they complain about it about the best that they will get is, ‘I’m sorry, I’ll try to do better next time.’” — Stacy Evenson, state director of Marsy’s Law for Hawaii
Stacy Evenson, state director of Marsy’s Law for Hawaii, said that Hawaii is one of 18 states that does not have “constitutional-level protection for victims.”
She said criminal defendants’ rights are protected at a constitutional level with laws such as the Miranda rights, while crime victims’ rights are only addressed in statutes.
“Unfortunately they’re not enforceable,” said Evenson. “If the victim is not afforded the rights that are due by virtue of the state law and if they complain about it about the best that they will get is, ‘I’m sorry, I’ll try to do better next time.’”
Evenson said current laws are inconsistently enforced, whereas if a constitutional law is not obeyed, there are consequences and solutions.
While several law enforcement agencies and victims’ rights organizations support the bills, the Maui County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office submitted written testimony in opposition to HB 1144, saying it is “unnecessary” because of existing state law and may conflict with the the constitutional rights of the accused.
HB 1144 has been referred to the House Finance Committee.
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