Montana is one of 18 states that does not provide Constitutional protections for victims of crime. A new ballot initiative is aimed at changing that – Marsy’s Law for Montana would elevate victims’ rights up to the Constitutional level to make them co-equal to the rights afforded to individuals accused or convicted of crime. Fallon County Sheriff Trent Harbaugh recently gave his official endorsement of Marsy’s Law.
“The law enforcement officers across our state do everything in their power to protect crime victims and ensure their rights are upheld,” said Sheriff Trent Harbaugh. “But because the rights of victims aren’t Constitutionally protected, their rights are not equal to those of the accused some times victims can feel left out of the process. We need to make sure that the rights of Montana’s crime victims are viewed as co-equal with those of the accused.”
Marsy’s Law would protect the rights of victims to be notified of and be heard at proceedings in their case. It would also give them the right to be notified of changes in an offender’s custodial status and guarantee their right to restitution.
The initiative is named after Marsalee (Marsy) Nicholas, a California college student who was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Shortly after her murder, Marsy’s mother and brother were confronted and harassed by the murderer – they had not been informed he had been let out on bail. The trauma Marsy’s family experienced in the murder trial led her brother, Henry, to found Marsy’s Law for All, a victim’s rights group with the objective of empowering crime victims by elevating their rights to the Constitutional level.
Marsy’s Law for All has already helped enact Constitutional Amendments in three states and is currently working to place an Amendment on the Montana ballot in 2016. For more information, visit www.marsyslaw.us.