Marsy’s Law seeks to amend the Wisconsin state constitution to grant victims of crime co-equal rights with defendants in the criminal justice system. In order to amend the constitution, voters in Wisconsin are to vote “yes” or “no” on a ballot referendum question which states: “Additional rights of crime victims. Shall section 9m of article I of the constitution, which gives certain rights to crime victims, be amended to give crime victims additional rights, to require that the rights of crime victims be protected with equal force to the protections afforded the accused while leaving the federal constitutional rights of the accused intact, and to allow crime victims to enforce their rights in court?”
The ACLU opposes this amendment because Wisconsin’s version of Marsy’s Law is not clear, contains more questions than answers, and the proposed ballot amendment asks voters to choose between empathy for victims and protection against the state without necessary detail. Perhaps most importantly, Marsy’s Law deletes the current constitutional requirement to not limit the rights of the accused. Marsy’s Law was promoted and funded by an out-of-state organization and is not tailored to Wisconsin. Its negative effects will likely be felt by prosecutors, defense attorneys, defendants, and even victims. Other states that have amended their constitutions with similar provisions have had significant operational issues which have created unintended consequences. Issues have included increased costs, delays in court proceedings, conflicts with open records laws, court scheduling conflicts, litigation related to conflicts with U.S. Constitutional provisions, definitions of victims that have been expanded to include retailers such as Walmart, and litigation from victims for unequal application or violations of the new constitutional provisions.
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