Understanding Marsy’s Law
The legal system can be an overwhelming, confusing process for anyone to navigate – including those who are victims of a crime.
Marsy’s Law, the name for a statute adopted into practice in Wisconsin in 2020, purports to better define and protect victims’ rights, but for those individuals, the burden could now be even greater as they simultaneously work through potential trauma associated with the complexities of the legal system and try to understand a new procedure that has questionable constitutional legitimacy.
Victims’ Rights in Wisconsin
In April 2020, Wisconsinites voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would expand the rights of crime victims in the state and theoretically bolster the support to which victims are entitled. Known as ‘Marsy’s Law,’ the measure aims to protect the rights of alleged victims during the judicial process.
Marsy’s Law comes to Wisconsin as a result of a national campaign with roots in California, where in 1983, Marsalee (Marsy) Ann Nicholas, a college student, was killed by an ex-boyfriend who was then released on bail just days after the murder. Troubled by the chain of events, Marsy’s brother founded the Marsy’s Law campaign.
What Marsy’s Law Means for Wisconsin
Marsy’s Law attempts to define ‘victim,’ although the specified definition does not substantially change who can claim victim status. It also adds 16 largely ambiguous rights for crime victims to the state constitution, including the rights:
To be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, sensitivity and fairness;
To proceedings free from unreasonable delay;
To be heard; and
To refuse an interview, deposition or other discovery request made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused, among other rights.
Wisconsin had established strong victims’ rights statutes well before Marsy’s Law. In the 1990s, in line with many other states at the time, Wisconsin voters approved adding victims’ rights provisions to the state constitution, and additional updates have been implemented since. Marsy’s Law builds upon those provisions and details more specifically the scope of the rights of victims.
The bottom line is this: while new laws like this one may add to the confusion you might be feeling, our team of experienced attorneys can help you make sense of the process and provide expert, compassionate support in your efforts to receive the legal outcome you deserve.