In the November 2016 election, voters in North Dakota voted to amend the state constitution to include a victims’ bill of rights commonly known as Marsy’s Law. Although Marsy’s Law has its critics, it remains the law in North Dakota and provides crime victims with certain constitutional rights and protections. Marsy’s Law defines “victim” as “a person who suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological, or financial harm as a result of the commission or attempted commission of a crime or delinquent act or against whom the crime or delinquent act is committed.” If the victim is deceased, incompetent, incapacitated, or a minor, then the victim’s spouse, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, sibling, or guardian, and any person with a relationship substantially similar to one of these relationships, may exercise rights under Marsy’s Law.
Marsy’s Law spells out 19 rights for victims. Some of the rights are general in nature, such as “the right to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s dignity” and “the right to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse.” Other rights are more specific, such as the right to receive notice of, and to be present at, all proceedings involving the criminal or delinquent conduct.
One of the more notable rights in Marsy’s Law is the “right to privacy,” which includes the victim’s right to refuse an interview or deposition request from the defendant or the defendant’s attorney. Prior to the enactment of Marsy’s Law, a victim could have been required to consent to a deposition requested by the defendant or the defendant’s attorney. Other notable rights in Marsy’s Law include the right, upon request, to confer with the prosecutor; “the right to be heard in any proceeding involving release, plea, sentencing, adjudication, disposition, or parole, and any proceeding during which a right of the victim is implicated”; and “the right to full and timely restitution . . . for all losses suffered by the victim as a result of the criminal or delinquent conduct.” Victims must affirmatively assert their rights under Marsy’s Law. The victim, the victim’s attorney, a lawful representative of the victim, or the prosecutor upon request of the victim may assert the victim’s rights under Marsy’s Law. If you or someone you know has been the victim of a crime in North Dakota and the person who committed the crime is currently being charged, contact Ohnstad Twichell to discuss victims’ rights under Marsy’s Law.
*The information provided in this letter is of a general nature and should not be acted upon without prior discussion with your Ohnstad Twichell, P.C., attorney.