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Chris Field- Contributor
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Needed Constitutional Amendment
What about victim's rights?...
[Chris Field] 4/18/05
Many of you probably heard about the more than 10,000 fugitives
who were picked up over the last week or so, many of whom were
wanted for violent crimes. The round-up was a result of a effort
led by U.S. Marshals nationwide.
According to the AP,
officers from "960 federal, state
and local law enforcement agencies took part in the concentrated
search, which coincided with Crime Victims Rights Week," and
the "dragnet caught 10,340 people, some of whom had two
or more outstanding arrest warrants."
Did you know that more than 5 million violent crimes are committed
every year in this country? Crime victims' freedoms and rights
first are trampled on by criminals who have no respect for civilized
society, and second are trampled on by our nation's courts --
courts that ignore the rights of victims. A balance between victims'
and defendants' rights, which once existed, must be reestablished.
The current and growing inequality is creating a greater disrespect
for the law because the law is not just. Legislative remedies
have been tried and have failed; as the 1982 President's Task
Force on Victims of Crime concluded, the only option that will
work to restore the rights of the innocent is to pass a constitutional
The drafters of the Constitution did not include specific rights
for victims of crime as they did for people accused of crimes,
but that's not too surprising if you think about it: there wasn't
a need for listing such specific rights because victims were
parties to the legal actions against their perpetrators. The
rights of victims were dramatically altered with the advent of
government-paid public prosecutors in the mid-1800s. Since then,
the government, not the victims, has been the party litigating
against criminals in court. This move was made to ensure that
criminals would be punished even when their victims could not,
or would not, prosecute them.
Unfortunately, one side-effect of replacing victims with public
prosecutors has been that the victims have been forced to the
sidelines. Victims are no longer an integral part of the process,
and as victims' rights diminish so do the incentives to report
crime and to cooperate with the prosecution. Many States have
addressed this issue with statutes to protect victims' rights
-- and dozens of states have adopted constitutional amendments.
What makes victims' rights protection difficult is trying to
determine the best legislation to use to provide such protection
-- history shows us that the potency of statutes is rapidly decreasing.
Judges strike them down as unconstitutionally interfering with
the rigthts of criminals, or they simply ignore them.
That's why, back when I worked for the Senate Republican Policy
Committee (RPC), we actively pushed for the passage of a Crime
Victims Constitutional Amendment. Conservative Republican Sen.
Jon Kyl and liberal Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein tag-teamed
on a great amendment that I still hope will one day be passed.
It's about time we thwarted activist judges and amended the
Constitution. I offer the language of an amendment once offered
by Kyl and Feinstein:
SECTION 1. A victim of a crime of violence, as these terms may
be defined by law, shall have the rights:
- to reasonable
notice of, and not to be excluded from, any public proceedings
relating to the crime;
- to be
heard, if present, and to submit a statement at all such
proceedings to determine a conditional
an acceptance of a negotiated plea, or a sentence;
the foregoing rights at a parole proceeding that is not
public, to the extent those rights are afforded to
- to reasonable
notice of a release or escape from custody relating to the
- to consideration
of the interest of the victim that any trial be free from
- to an
order of restitution from the convicted offender;
- to consideration
for the safety of the victim in determining any conditional
release from custody
relating to the
- to reasonable
notice of the rights established by this article.
Only the victim or the victim's lawful representative shall
the rights established
by this article. Nothing in this article
shall provide grounds
or continue any trial, reopen any proceeding
or invalidate any ruling, except with
respect to conditional
or to provide rights guaranteed by this
article in future proceedings, without staying or
continuing a trial. Nothing
in this article
shall give rise to or authorize the creation
claim for damages against the United
States, a State, a political
or a public officer or employee.
3. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article
by appropriate legislation.
to the rights
established by this article may be
created only when necessary to achieve a compelling
This article shall take effect on the 180th day after the ratification
to an order of restitution
established by this article shall
apply to crimes committed before
The rights and immunities established by this article shall
apply in Federal and
proceedings to the extent that
Congress may provide by law, juvenile
in the District
of Columbia and any commonwealth,
territory, or possession of the
If we are going to claim that we
want to save the helpless from
like this is
what we need.
More on the debate over this amendment
note: This Two Cents is adapted from a piece written by Chris
Field for the Senate Republican Policy
2005 Human Events