someone is a victim, he or she should be at the center of
the criminal justice process, not on the outside looking
in. Participation in all forms of government is the essence
of democracy. Victims should be guaranteed the right to
participate in proceedings related to crimes committed against
them. People accused of crimes have explicit constitutional
rights. Ordinary citizens have a constitutional right to
participate in criminal trials by serving on a jury. The
press has a constitutional right to attend trials. All of
this is as it should be. It is only the victims of crime
who have no constitutional right to participate, and that
is not the way it should be. "
William Jefferson Clinton
Remarks at Announcement of the Victims'
Rights Constitutional Amendment, June 25, 1996
issue of federal constitutional protection of victims' rights
was first raised in the landmark President's Task Force
on Victims of Crime Final Report published in 1982. Its
authors proposed augmenting the Sixth Amendment of the U.S.
Constitution to provide that ". . . the victim, in every
criminal prosecution, shall have the right to be present
and to be heard at all critical stages of judicial proceedings.
to the 1998 elections, a total of twenty-nine states had
passed state victims' rights constitutional amendments.
In the Fall of 1998, the voters in four additional states
approved state victims' rights constitutional amendments
- Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, and Tennessee. Also in
1998, the Oregon Supreme Court overturned the state's victims'
rights constitutional amendment, citing structural deficiencies.
Thus, with one loss and four gains, a total of thirty-three
states have amended their constitutions, but a total of
thirty-two states enjoy current constitutional protection
for victims; guaranteeing an array of rights, including
notification, participation, protection, and input. A handful
of states applies these constitutional rights to victims
of juvenile as well as adult, offenders.
April of 1996, and again in the opening session of the new
Congress in January of 1997, a Victims' Rights Constitutional
Amendment was introduced by Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in the U.S. Senate and by Henry
Hyde (R-.L) in the House of Representatives. In June of
1996, President Clinton endorsed the concept of a federal
constitutional amendment for crime victims' rights in a
special ceremony held at the White House. His moving words
are quoted above.
NCVRW Resource Guide