PHOENIX, AZ (April 23, 2013) – Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery will mark this year’s observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week by traveling to Washington D.C. to testify in favor of a bi-partisan proposal to add a Victims Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Under a House Joint Resolution introduced today by Representatives Trent Franks (R-AZ), Jim Costa (D-CA) and Edward Royce (R-CA), crime victims throughout the nation will be entitled to the same rights afforded to victims in Arizona and other states.
These include the right to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity; the right to be notified of and be present at criminal proceedings; the right to be heard in court when a defendant is released, sentenced, or offered a plea agreement; the right to safety and privacy; and the right to restitution. Montgomery will testify at a hearing on the Resolution before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice at 11:30 a.m. on April 25, 2013.
“For too long and in too many instances, victims of crime have been unfairly excluded or largely ignored by the very criminal justice system designed to serve them,” remarked County Attorney Montgomery. “It is time to correct the current imbalance in our legal system which respects the rights of the accused yet denies victims a voice in criminal proceedings and fails to address the emotional as well as financial impacts of the offense they have suffered,” he added.
First proposed 31 years ago by President Reagan’s Task Force on Victims of Crime, the Victims’ Rights Amendment has since garnered overwhelming support by the public. A recent Luntz poll finds 73% of Americans favor the Amendment, while only 15% oppose and 12% are unsure. As the Task Force noted in recommending the Amendment, “the innocent victims of crime have been overlooked, their pleas for justice have gone unheeded, and their wounds – personal, emotional, and financial – have gone unattended.”
While thirty-three states have enacted some form of victims’ rights legislation, these protections are not universal nor are they always enforced. The proposed federal amendment to the U.S. constitution requires ratification by three-fourths of the States within 14 years after the date of its submission by Congress.