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Question of the Month ~ December 2016


Q. Do states in the Midwest provide crime victims with constitutional rights and protections?

In 1980, Wisconsin became the first U.S. state to establish a statutory bill of rights for crime victims. Since then, state constitutions across the country have been amended to provide an even greater level of protections to this group of citizens.
Most recently, voters in North Dakota (62 percent to 38 percent) and South Dakota (60 percent to 40 percent) approved November ballot measures to amend their constitutions. These new provisions to protect crime victims are part of a national movement and are collectively known as “Marsy’s Law.” They include a right to:
Prior to this fall’s vote, North Dakota and South Dakota had been two of the Midwest’s four states without constitutional protections for crime victims. (The other two, Iowa and Minnesota, do provide various rights for crime victims in state statute).
Two years ago, nearly 80 percent of voters in Illinois approved a version of Marsy’s Law. The state already had provided constitutional rights for crime victims, but language in the 2014 amendment ensures that individuals have the chance to secure these rights in court. Then, one year later, Illinois legislators passed a bill (HB 1121) clarifying the procedures for crime victims to assert those rights, as well as the role of prosecutors, judges and the victims’ attorneys.
In the Midwest, other state constitutional protections date back to between 1988 and 1996. They commonly give victims the right to be “treated with fairness, dignity and respect” and to be informed and present at hearings of the criminal justice process. States such as Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin include a right for victims to make statements at an offender’s sentencing. Michigan and Wisconsin also include a right to restitution.


Article written by Tim Anderson, CSG Midwest publications manager. Question of the Month highlights a research inquiry received by CSG Midwest.