There has been some handwringing in the press about what effects Marsy’s Law may have here in North Dakota. Too little attention, however, has been paid to the positives: under Marsy’s Law, crime victims in North Dakota will have constitutional rights they can depend on to keep them better informed and more involved in our complicated criminal justice process.
I do want to address some of the claims I’ve seen from Marsy’s Law’s critics. First, I expect that we may have to invest additional resources to ensure that all victims are informed about the proceedings in their case. The voters made it clear that they consider this a high priority. That said, there is no indication that there will be as large of price tag here given the SAVIN system is already in place to assist with notifications.
Second, public information of a crime will remain public, which includes identifying information. However, if a victim affirmatively asks for otherwise non-public personal or identifying information to not be released, Marsy’s Law protects that. This is particularly important in sex abuse cases.
North Dakotans passed Marsy’s Law by 62 percent. And we are already seeing the benefits playing out. Most recently, in the Russell Braun child-rape case where the family was given a chance to make victim impact statements as part of Marsy’s Law. Giving victims the right to be heard in these settings helps bring some comfort amid unimaginable circumstances.
Ultimately, there will always be a handful of people who don’t agree that crime victims should have constitutional rights. Fortunately, they are in the minority, and most of us can agree that crime victims should be treated with dignity and respect.