SD Voters May Amend Victims Law After Problems

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South Dakota voters enthusiastically passed “Marsy’s Law” in 2016, joining other states that embrace constitutional amendments giving crime victims such rights as being notified of developments in their cases. Now, voters are being asked to support changes to the amendment to help police and prosecutors cut down on unforeseen bureaucratic problems it has created, the Associated Press reports. The proposed changes – which the Marsy’s Law campaign supports – would require victims to opt in to many of their rights and would allow authorities to share information with the public to help solve crimes. South Dakota voters will decide during the state’s June 5 primary, months before five other states decide whether to adopt their own versions of Marsy’s Law.

Kelli Peterson of the Minnehaha County State’s Attorney’s Office used to spend her workdays focused on helping victims of violent crime navigate the criminal justice system. Under Marsy’s Law, she must spend more time letting victims know about court proceedings, even for petty theft or trespassing. She spent nearly an entire day last year trying to notify an out-of-state bank that someone had been arrested for trespassing in a home it owned. She ended up sending a letter but never heard back. Five states – California, Ohio, Illinois, North Dakota, and South Dakota – have enacted Marsy’s Laws. South Dakota would be the first to alter its statute, though Montana voters passed a similar law in 2016 that the state Supreme Court overturned, citing flaws in how it was written. The laws are named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California college student who was stalked and killed in 1983 by an ex-boyfriend. Her brother, billionaire Henry Nicholas, has bankrolled the ballot measures. Voters are set to decide on Marsy’s Laws in November in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, and Oklahoma.

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