Marsy’s Law Will Help to Ensure that Victims are not Re-Victimized - Shelly Hall
Voters passed Marsy’s Law for Georgia by more than 80 percent in 2018, demonstrating overwhelming support for strong crime victims’ rights. As our state moves to implement these new constitutional rights, there’s still much work to do to ensure victims know their rights and know how to demand them in our judicial process.
I have been in my position as Director of Victim Services since 2008 and through my experience in helping crime victims, I’ve encountered multiple clients who believe their rights were violated. It’s frustrating to know that my response was limited to an apology and a listening ear because during that time a crime victim’s rights were not constitutionally protected. My office believes that the best possible treatment of crime victims includes enforceable rights, a clear description of their rights and easy access to information on the process for them to take if they feel their rights have been violated.
This is one reason why I decided to advocate for the implementation of Marsy’s Law in Georgia. When the law was enacted in January 2019, it brought with it the provision of constitutional protections for crime victims. While victims had the right to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect and the right to be informed of his or her rights, these rights were not protected constitutionally. By elevating these rights to where they are enforceable in criminal courtrooms, Marsy’s Law will help to ensure that victims are not re-victimized by the criminal justice process.
It’s been more than one year since Marsy’s Law Georgia was implemented and the law on our own books is clear on the defined rights that a crime victim is entitled to, but I believe the state of Georgia must do a better job of not only informing victims of those rights but defining the path that should be taken by victims seeking to enforce those rights.
We look forward to an inclusive and open discussion on how the State can be responsive to the needs of crime victims as they go through our criminal justice system. Victim Services should be holistic in nature and designed to encourage a cohesive and collaborative environment by and between all of our community stakeholders.
As a starting point, I would also like to see notification cards that outline the constitutional protections now available under Marsy’s Law. That information, coupled with available resources, would be especially helpful to crime victims.
I would like to see improved access to information and updates about the status of criminal proceedings, as well as guidance and education surrounding the process for crime victims to seek relief should their rights be violated. Georgia’s judicial structure includes many different components and this can present challenges to the development of a unified approach. However, when all agencies work together collaboratively, we can ensure that crime victims experience a seamless delivery of services.
Director of Victim Services, Office of the District Attorney
Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, Columbus, Georgia