Mandate Existing Laws for Victims

Ballot Language

Constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime, to establish certain, absolute basic rights for victims, and to ensure the enforcement of these rights.

For

Against

What it Does

Mandates many of the existing laws for victims without offering a plan to implement or pay for it.

North Carolina already provides protections under the NC Crime Victims’ Rights Act under Article 1, Section 37 of the State Constitution, including the right to be heard at sentencing, the right to be informed, the right to confer with the prosecutor, and the right to restitution. We need to avoid redundant mandates which have no implementation plans or funding provided upfront.

For more details, please read House Bill 551.

Issues with this Amendment

North Carolina already has an existing victim’s rights law on the books, and this mandate provides no outline of how it would be implemented.

A similar law went into effect in South Dakota in 2016, and has created many issues.

  • Police stopped asking for the public’s help in solving crimes-in-progress to avoid revealing victims’ locations.
  • Prosecutors spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in staffing to locate victims of low level crimes such as vandalism or shoplifting.
  • Defendants spent extra time in jail because victims couldn’t be located in time for arraignment.
This amendment places burdens on the criminal justice system without paying for them.
A document that detailed the projected cost ($30M annually) was marked confidential and was forbidden from discussion during the reading of this bill, and no bipartisan amendments were allowed.
This could compromise the right to due process, for defendants who are innocent until proven guilty.

It designates someone as a victim before the defendant has been charged with a crime, and doesn’t fully define who a victim actually is. In addition, the defendant’s guilt is assumed.

Given most defendants are likely to be minorities, this then taps into issues of racism. Without new funds coming into the judiciary, reallocation of funds is the most likely way to cover any new costs. Money will be spent on tending to victims’ requests INSTEAD OF all funds being dedicated to figuring out whether defendants are guilty and what kind of sentencing is fair. This opens the door for victims to object to plea bargains, creating even greater burdens on an already overloaded judicial system. It’s not a good idea legally or financially.