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August 21, 2015

MADIGAN: BEGIN STATEWIDE IMPLEMENTATION OF CRIME VICTIMS’ RIGHTS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

Springfield — Attorney General Lisa Madigan highlighted a new state law that will protect the rights of survivors of crime, and ensure they can be heard in court. House Bill 1121, sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and Senate President John Cullerton (D Chicago), was passed by the General Assembly nearly unanimously and signed into law Aug. 20.

The new law reconciles the Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act with the Constitutional Crime Victims’ Rights Amendment that voters adopted in November 2014. The law defines who is considered a crime victim. It also provides procedures for victims to assert their rights, procedures for prosecutors and courts to ensure that victims are afforded their rights, and outlining procedures for victims seeking a remedy in the event their rights have been violated.

“Survivors of crime deserve the right to seek justice and to be heard in court, and last November, the people of Illinois agreed and amended our Constitution,” said Madigan. “Now, with this law, we have detailed procedures to ensure our criminal justice system is protecting the constitutional rights of individuals who have survived violent crimes, helping them rebuild their lives.”

The Crime Victims’ Rights Amendment, also known as Marsy’s Law, was passed last year by over 78 percent of voters and amended the Illinois Constitution to ensure survivors have comprehensive, meaningful and enforceable rights, including:

  • The right to be treated with fairness and respect and to be free from harassment, intimidation, and abuse throughout the criminal justice process;
  • The right to receive notice and to participate in a hearing when there is a request for access to the victim’s confidential or privileged records;
  • The right to timely notification of all court proceedings;
  • The right to communicate with the prosecution;
  • The right to be heard at any court proceeding involving the rights of a victim, a post-arraignment release decision, plea or sentencing;
  • The right to be notified of the conviction, sentence, imprisonment and release of the accused;
  • The right to timely disposition of the case following the arrest of the accused;
  • The right to be reasonably protected from the accused throughout the criminal justice process;
  • The right to have the safety of the victim and the victim’s family considered when determining bail and conditions of release after conviction;
  • The right to be present at the trial and all other court proceedings;
  • The right to have an advocate and other support of the victim’s choice present at all court proceedings; and
  • The right to restitution.

Under the amendment, victims are also able to seek appellate review of court decisions that impact their ability to exercise their rights.

“People who survive violent crimes should have the right to take an active role in making sure the perpetrators of those crimes are held accountable,” said Lang. “I am proud of this new law that enables survivors to be involved in the process, which will hopefully assist them in obtaining some closure.”

“When prosecutors enter the courtroom, they are speaking for the victim, and it is important that the victim’s voice is amplified,” said Cullerton. “To encourage victim participation in the justice process, we must make sure that doing so does not add to the trauma survivors have already overcome.”

Under HB 1121, victims will provide prosecutors and judges with a checklist of the rights they want to assert. Prosecutors are charged with asserting those rights on victims’ behalf, and victims may also retain an attorney to protect their rights. At the start of a court proceeding, judges will be required to determine whether a victim has been properly notified of the proceeding.

In addition to outlining how other victims’ rights will be asserted and preserved, the law also sets forth the factors a judge must consider when deciding what the remedy will be for a violation of a victim’s constitutional right. It also allows for victims to appeal a trial court’s decision regarding their rights.

“This is a tremendous victory for victims of crime. Illinois voters overwhelmingly voted ‘yes,’ and the governor’s signature is the final hurdle in giving crime victims the rights they deserve,” said Polly Poskin, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “ICASA commends the Illinois legislature, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and victim advocates for this courageous action on behalf of victims’ rights.”

The Crime Victims’ Rights Amendment and HB1121 were both supported by the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Illinois State’s Attorneys’ Association, the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence and numerous victims’ rights organizations.

Attorney General Madigan’s Crime Victim Services Division manages several programs that provide assistance to crime victims and service providers. For more information about the Crime Victims Services Division or the rights afforded to survivors of crime, please visit the Attorney General’s website or call her office’s toll-free Crime Victims’ Assistance Line: 1-800-228-3368 or 1-877-398-1130 (TTY).

House Bill 1121 goes into effect immediately.

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