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Victims' Rights Constitutional Amendments

"When 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. "

President William Jefferson Clinton
Remarks at Announcement of the Victims'
Rights Constitutional Amendment, June 25, 1996

The 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.

"Prior 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.

In 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.

2001 NCVRW Resource Guide

The following states have taken the extra step in keeping with the spirit of the law and established within their states Victims' Rights Constitutional Amendments

State Year Passed Electoral Support
Alabama 1994 80%
Alaska 1994 87%
Arizona 1990 58%
California 1982 56%
Colorado 1992 86%
Connecticut 1996 78%
Florida 1988 90%
Idaho 1994 79%
Illinois 1992 77%
Indiana 1996 89%
Kansas 1992 84%
Louisiana 1998 69%
Maryland 1994 92%
Michigan 1992 84%
Mississippi 1998 93 %
Missouri 1992 84%
Montana 1998 71 %
Nebraska 1996 78 %
Nevada 1996 74%
New Jersey 1991 85%
New Mexico 1992 68 %
North Carolina 1996 78 %
Ohio 1994 77%
Oklahoma 1996 91 %
59 %
Rhode Island 1986 *
South Carolina 1996 89 %
Tennessee 1998 89 %
Texas 1989 73 %
Utah 1994 68 %
Virginia 1996 84 %
Washington 1989 78%
Wisconsin 1993 84 %

* Passed by Constitutional Convention.

2001 NCVRW Resource Guide



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