The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly Thursday to grant victims of federal crimes a new set of rights guaranteeing their participation in legal proceedings against the accused, reports the New York Times.
The legislation, long sought by victim advocacy groups, raced through the Senate on a 96-to-1 vote after its supporters this week abandoned their efforts to enact the new standards through a Constitutional amendment.
Should the measure become law, victims will be entitled to be “reasonably heard” throughout the case against the accused. They must also be notified of public proceedings and if the offender is going to be released from custody.
“I can’t tell you how many victims who may have testified against their assailant live in dread of the fact that an assailant will be released, they won’t know it, they won’t be able to protect themselves and the assailant will come after them,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, a co-author of the legislation. “That’s just not theory, it has happened over and over and over again.”
Supporters of the legislation predicted that it would be passed by the House and enacted into law.
The American Civil Liberties Union said the legislation could make it more difficult to strike plea bargains that can lead to testimony against other criminals.
“It would still inject raw emotion into what should be as calm and rational a process as possible, and it threatens to block prosecutorial actions necessary to put really dangerous criminals behind bars,” said an ACLU analyst.