North Dakota lawyers: New victims’ rights law is vague
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Prosecutors and defense attorneys said it’ll take years of litigation to determine the meaning and boundaries of a measure that added more than a dozen crime victims’ rights to the North Dakota constitution.
The so-called Marsy’s Law won on Election Day, but it was opposed by the people charged with enforcing it, including police, prosecutors and victims’ advocates, The Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/2gdbJHV) reported.
Supporters said the law will bolster the rights of crime victims. But prosecutors see potential issues in what they call vague provisions.
“If we have a bond hearing in 15 minutes and can’t get a hold of the victim, I don’t know how the court can proceed with the hearing,” said Richard Riha, Burleigh County State’s Attorney.
He said he expects the new provisions to slow the justice system and will result in defendants spending more nights in jail.
“Prosecutors will have to say, what have I all done to make sure notification went out and (find out) if the person wants to speak to me,” said Aaron Birst, executive director of the North Dakota State’s Attorney’s Association.
North Dakota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers president Jackson Lofgren said he expects defense attorneys to quickly begin challenging the measure in court, especially at bond hearings and in misdemeanor cases.
“We’re going to start uncovering those scenarios where the rights of the defendant are getting trampled on by the implications of Marsy’s Law,” said Lofgren.
The constitutional amendment expands the definition of a victim warranting services to include victims of theft and other misdemeanors, and possibly witnesses to crimes. A victim also has the right to be heard at all hearings relating to a person’s release and sentence.
The law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.
Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com