Frequently Asked Questions
Marsy’s Law for NH is a statewide crime victims’ group working with a coalition of Granite Staters to ensure that victims of crime in our state are treated with dignity, fairness, respect, and are provided with enforceable, constitutional rights.
Marsy’s Law is seeking to elevate key rights of crime victims into the state’s Constitution to ensure that victims have rights that are equal, in stature, to the constitutional rights of the accused and convicted. Marsy’s Law for NH, or CACR 22, provides crime victims and their families with the following constitutional rights:
- to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy;
- upon request, to reasonable and timely notice of and to be present at all proceedings involving the criminal or delinquent conduct;
- to be heard in any proceeding involving release, plea, sentencing, disposition, parole, and any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated;
- to reasonable protection from the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused;
- to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused;
- to full and timely restitution;
- to proceedings free from unreasonable delay and a prompt conclusion to a case.
In New Hampshire, victims have the ‘Victim’s Bill of Rights” in statute, but they have NO constitutional rights. Victims deserve to have constitutional protections, just as those who are accused or convicted of a crime. Unfortunately, right now a defendant’s constitutional rights trump a victim’s statutory rights.
Unless we elevate the rights of a victim to have the same level of constitutional rights of a criminal, the inequity in the NH criminal justice system will remain. We could pass 100 more statutory rights for victims in NH, but defendants’ constitutional rights will still carry much more weight. Passing a constitutional amendment is the only way to truly create parity in the criminal justice system, and to create enforceable rights for victims.
Every state constitution and the U.S. Constitution provide numerous rights for individuals accused of a crime, and individuals convicted of a crime. Crime victims, however, have no enumerated rights in 15 state constitutions—including New Hampshire.
It’s time for New Hampshire to join the 35 states that guarantee constitutional protections for victims of crime by using similar or identical language that is found in CACR 22—language that has never been found to be unconstitutional anywhere in the United States. Marsy’s Law would ensure that victims have the same “co-equal” rights as the accused and convicted. No more, no less.
No. There has been no evidence of this in any of the 35 states that have constitutional rights for victims. CACR22 does not require any different treatment of the accused, related to sentencing or otherwise, so law enforcement, juries, judges, and parole boards are still free to make decisions as they see fit.
No. Marsy’s Law for NH is an opt-in system, so only those who choose to be notified will be.
Currently, victims of all felony level crimes and certain misdemeanor-level crimes must already be notified of changes in their cases; CACR 22 extends notification to all misdemeanor level crimes. Most police and local prosecutors are already doing an excellent job notifying victims of misdemeanor crimes because they understand that it is critical to do so. However, it’s important to provide victims with a “right” to notification – it shouldn’t just be a courtesy.
Efforts in New Hampshire are already underway to establish an automated statewide notification system for victims of crime, which will reduce staff time. Federal funding comes to NH each year to enhance notification for victims of crime and can be used to pay for an automated system and additional victim witness advocates.
No. The rights proposed in Marsy’s Law for NH, CACR 22, do not impede defendants’ rights. Those accused of a crime by the state continue to have every constitutional right they have always enjoyed, as they should. They are innocent until proven guilty.
The rights outlined in CACR 22, with the exception of the important right to fully and timely restitution, are largely procedural rights – centered around the rights to be informed of key developments in the case, the right to be present, and except for at trial, the right to have a voice. This constitutional amendment would not make a victim a party to the criminal matter, nor would it grant them intervenor status – in fact, the plain language within the constitutional amendment makes it explicitly clear that this is not the case.
No. CACR 22 ensures that victims receive restitution on a timely basis, because no one should have to pay to be a victim, however, it doesn’t require a defendant to pay an amount that they are unable to afford. If a defendant can only afford to pay their victim $5 a month, they should pay $5 a month every month until they’ve paid for all of their victim’s losses. If the defendant has a change of circumstances and cannot afford their $5 monthly payment, they should be required to inform the court and pay the victim for their losses as soon as they are able to.
When it comes to victim depositions, New Hampshire provides far more latitude than the federal government and nearly every other state in the nation. NH is now one of only 5 states that permit criminal defense discovery depositions. The federal government does not allow victim depositions. In fact, The Rules of Federal Criminal Procedure do not allow any discovery depositions. In NH, the practice of requesting victim depositions has been used by some defendants and their attorneys to encourage victims to drop charges.
CACR 22 clarifies that defendants won’t have the right to depose the victim directly. It just stops the defense from going around the state to get information directly from the victim, prior to the trial. CACR does not impact a defendant’s ability to get everything that is in the state’s possession; prosecutors will still be required to share all interviews, evidence, and anything else in their possession with the defense. Closing this loophole will have a cost savings for local and county prosecutors, who must spend time fighting these requests in an effort to preserve the victim’s rights.
Furthermore, this provision only applies to pre-trial depositions and interviews – the defendant still has the right to confront their accuser during trial. Under CACR 22, if at any juncture in the criminal justice system the defendant’s and victim’s rights are at direct odds, the court will have the ability to weigh both sides and make a determination about which rights prevail. If a Court orders a deposition of a victim after weighing both sides, then a victim would have to comply.
No. If there was a conflict with the 5th or 14th US Constitutional Amendments there would be libraries full of case law from other states and federal cases supporting that claim. Instead, there is not ONE case that exists, which shows that there is a conflict, perceived or otherwise.
Under CACR 22, if at any juncture in the criminal justice system the defendant’s and the victim’s rights were at direct odds, the court would have the ability to weigh both sides and make a determination about which rights prevail. That’s what the court does now, but currently they’re weighing statutory rights against constitutional rights, so the scales are automatically tipped in a defendant’s favor. CACR 22 puts these rights on an even par.
The right to be heard should not be confused with the right to be believed. People have no more opportunity to falsely claim victimhood under Marsy’s Law for NH than they do under current laws. The court remains free to determine that an individual is not a victim, stopping that person from invoking any rights under Marsy’s Law – and there is absolutely no data to show increasing victims’ rights increases the instance of false victim claims.
Small businesses are the backbone of New Hampshire. 21,539 businesses in NH have 4 or fewer employees. Small business owners who are victimized deserve the same level of rights as the person who victimizes them. CACR 22 allows business owners who are victims of crime such as embezzlement, theft, robbery, and vandalism to opt-in to notification and to have the rights afforded any other victim of crime.
Large corporations like Walmart do not choose to opt-in to notifications. They have attorneys who handle their cases and represent their interests in court. Small businesses owners across New Hampshire support the passage of CACR 22 because they want to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect in the criminal justice system.
In order for Marsy’s Law for NH, or CACR 22, to go on the ballot in November, it needs to pass both the NH House of Representatives and the NH State Senate with 3/5 majority. At that point, it needs the support of 2/3 of the voting body on election day. Only after passing through the House, Senate, and ballot vote with super majorities will CACR 22 be added to our state constitution.
No. Passing CACR 22 will only add victims’ rights to the constitution, it won’t take away anything already enshrined in the constitution or create an opportunity for content to be added or changed.
No. The language is not too long for a variety of reasons. First, the court needs specificity and direction in order to protect victims’ rights. Aspirational language, such as “[a] victim of crime has the right to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy” does not provide any guidance to the courts, and instead will certainly lead to years of litigation while courts decide what actual rights victims are afforded in those twenty-one words. Second, there are longer articles in the New Hampshire Constitution already. Lastly, the accused and convicted have extensive rights enumerated in the New Hampshire Constitution. These rights are clearly outlined and provide the courts with the direction needed to enforce those rights. Victims’ rights should be equally clear in our constitution to ensure courts have direction on how to balance the rights of defendants and those accused with the rights of victims, should they come into conflict with one another.
Yes. Victims in juvenile cases should be entitled to the basic constitutional rights provided by CACR 22. The goals of the juvenile justice system are two-fold: 1) to protect the community, hold a juvenile accountable for their actions; and 2) to impose a rehabilitative plan for the minor defendant, guided by the least restrictive alternative in each case.
Every state that has victims’ rights legislation also has laws that protect the confidentiality of minors in juvenile proceedings. Judges in those states, in enforcing a victim’s right to be present and be heard throughout delinquency proceedings, in no way ceases to protect the confidentiality of a minor, nor are they derailed by victims’ rights from the goal of rehabilitation and community protection.
Current NH law protects the confidentiality of minors in juvenile proceedings. Under current NH state statute, a victim, their counsel, a victim witness advocate, or another person chosen by the victim can be present in juvenile proceedings. It is important to note that it also prohibits a victim from disclosing any confidential information to any person not authorized or entitled to it. Disclosure of any such confidential information is a misdemeanor. Nothing under CACR 22 changes this or compromises the confidentiality of a minor offender.
Existing laws in NH, and around the country, exclude the public from juvenile courtrooms and prohibit anyone privy to the proceeding from discussing outside of the courtroom, what occurs inside a courtroom. Nothing in CACR 22 changes the umbrella of confidentiality over these proceedings.
For over 30 years, victims’ rights have been exercised and enforced in juvenile courts around the country without any evidence of confidentiality or the principle of rehabilitation being compromised.
No. Each of the rights enumerated within CACR 22 is included for a very specific reason and is supported by decades of case law from around the country. The level of specificity within this amendment provides clarity and direction to the courts around how to make determinations about and enforce victims’ rights.
Aspirational language, such as “[a] victim of crime has the right to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy” does not provide any guidance to the courts, and instead will certainly lead to years of litigation while courts decide what actual rights victims are afforded in those twenty-one words.
Marsy’s Law for NH provides 13 constitutional rights of crime while those accused and convicted are provided 27 rights within our constitution. The length of this amendment is not uncommon and it will not be the longest section in our constitution.
The rights provided in CACR 22 are clearly outlined and provide the courts with the direction needed to enforce those rights and balance the rights of defendants and those accused with the rights of victims, should they come into conflict with one another.
FAST FACTS: Paul Cassell is a former United States federal judge, who is a professor at the law school of the University of Utah. Known as a well-respected expert in victims’ rights, Cassell is a key member of the Marsy’s Law National Policy team and explains some of the biggest questions surrounding Marsy's Law.