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Victims to Amend Constitution

Victims To Amend Constitution

A network of crime victim's rights advocates, concerned about difficulties in enforcing laws that were intended to give victims specific legal rights, is mounting a campaign to win ratification of amendments to state constitutions ensuring those rights. Six states have approved amendments to their constitutions providing some form of victim rights, and the Victim's Constitutional Amendment Network (Victims' CAN) predicts the movement will gather momentum in the 1990's.

The coalition's ultimate goal is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would add the following language to the list of a criminal defendants' rights: "Likewise, the victim, in every criminal prosecution, shall have the right to be present and to be heard at all critical stages of judicial proceedings."

Washington State is one of the six states to have already passed constitutional amendments. Washington's law, approved in November of 1989, authorized both participation and restitution for victims. These amendments no only have the potential to run roughshod over the due process guaranteed defendants, they also fail to grasp that the criminal justice system is supposed to operate on the principle that it is the community, not the victim, who is wronged when a crime is committed. For more information write to:

Linda Barker-Lawrence
National Victim Center
Box 17209
Fort Worth, TX 76102

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