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Ballot Measures

2018 State-Wide Ballot Measures

Amendment 4: 'Marsy's Law' or Crime Victim Bill of Rights

Amendment 4, or "Marsy's Law," seeks to add rights of crime victims to the Georgia Constitution, rights currently recognized in Georgia statute. The amendment seeks to ensure victims are "accorded the utmost dignity and respect and shall be treated fairly by the criminal justice system of this state."

159 Georgia Together unequivocally supports this principle, and various other rights Amendment 4 seeks to constitutionalize (e.g., the right to timely notice of scheduled court proceedings).

However, the "victim impact statement" provision of Amendment 4 would allow victims to be heard at proceedings involving "release, plea, or sentencing" of the accused.

Victims and their families should be heard in many forums. But studies have shown what we can also intuit: victim impact statements turn juries' careful decision-making into one based on anger and retribution. 

In turn, they threaten the rights of the accused — particularly the American right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, since Amendment 4 would allow these statements not just in post-conviction sentencing, but pre-trial release and plea bargaining. See, e.g., theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/what-are-victim-impact-statements-for/492443.

If you share similar concerns regarding constitutionally enshrined victim impact statements, you'll want to vote "no" on this measure.

CON

Allowing victims to be heard at all proceedings involving "release, plea, or sentencing" could result in different treatment of defendants based on whether the victim is compelling. Could create a differential system of justice.

  • A threat to existing constitutional rights…could undermine a bedrock principle of our legal system, the presumption of innocence. Chances that an innocent person could be convicted could potentially increase. Proponents may not have intended this outcome, but nothing in their formula prevents it. There are other ways of guaranteeing victim’s rights.ACLU of NH regarding Marsy's Laws currently proposed in many states

  • Will inevitably result in different treatment of defendants based on the "quality of the victim" rather than on the actual offense – Galvanize Georgia 

PRO 

Victims would have the option to receive notification of all proceedings and be heard in any proceeding involving the release, plea, sentencing, disposition, or parole of the perpetrator. Puts victims' rights into the state constitution.

  • The reason that the Southern Center on Human Rights is not opposed to Amendment 4 is because all it is doing is making the state's victim's rights law a part of our constitution.  The version is different from what has passed in other states...the resolution does not create a cause of action for victims against the state, give victims a right to be heard in every proceeding or allow victims to refuse to be interviewed but the accused– Marissa Dodson, SCHR

  • Supported by Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and State Legislators  Elena Parent, Mary Margaret Oliver, Bee Nguyen & (Rep Elect) Becky Evans

  • Supported by Voter GA