Community Issues

PA Voters to Decide on Victims' Rights Amendment

Learn more about the proposed amendment that's expected on the ballot this November.

Pennsylvania voters will decide this fall on a proposed constitutional amendment that would outline specific rights for crime victims.

The Post-Gazette reports that this week, the state Senate unanimously approved putting Pennsylvania's version of Marsy's Law on the ballot this November . If passed, the amendment would give victims the right to be notified about and attend plea hearings, sentencings and parole proceedings.

"I feel this will really empower victims at a time when they feel powerless," Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton) told the Post-Gazette.

While the bill has found bipartisan support in the state legislature, it is opposed by the ACLU and criminal defense attorneys.

"Marsy's Law will fundamentally alter our criminal legal system and threaten long-established constitutional protections for the accused, including the presumption of innocence, the right to a speedy trial, the right to confront one's accuser, and the right to effective assistance of counsel, among others," said Elizabeth Randol, legislative director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania.

According to the Post-Gazette, Randol says the General Assembly did not hold hearings to consider certain provisions she finds problematic. In a statement in April, Randol says that this is especially troubling since the law will be passed as a constitutional amendment, meaning any flaws in the law would have to be changed by a second amendment.

The state attorney general's office will review the law and is expected to advertise it by August. Voters will then decide whether to pass the proposed amendment at the polls in November. If passed, it will take effect in January 2020.

For more information on how to register to vote in Pennsylvania, click here.

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