Amendment S Enshrines Victims' Rights But Confusing Language Could Harm Victims

Sep 7, 2016

Jason Glodt, SD Director of Marsy's Law for All
Credit Photo courtesy of Jason Glodt

In November, South Dakota voters will decide whether to add a crime victims' bill of rights to the state constitution. It sounds like a sympathetic cause. It gives victims the right to be treated with fairness and respect and to participate fully in criminal justice processes.

The state director of the campaign, Marsy's Law for All, says an amendment to the constitution is necessary to ensure that victims' rights are permanent.

Jason Glodt says current state laws don't offer equal protection to victims of all crimes, but rather focus on victims of violent felonies and a few misdemeanors.

Pennington County State's Attorney Mark Vargo
Credit Victoria Wicks

Opponents aren't necessarily against a victims' rights amendment. But for a number of reasons, they don't support this one.

One of the biggest problems is the language. Whether intentionally or not, as written, the amendment broadens the definition of "victim"  to include the crime victim's family members and gives all those people victims' rights, too.

Those rights include seeing a pre-sentence report that might include information about the defendant and victim that currently is held confidential.

And there is no disclaimer that victims cannot sue the state for damages or compensation.

Sharon Kallemeyn, former director of Pennington County Victims Assistance Program
Credit File photo by Victoria Wicks

SDPB's Victoria Wicks explores Amendment S, its wording, and the contentions of those aligned for and against it.

To see the amendment as filed with the Secretary of State's office and as it will appear on the South Dakota Constitution, click here:

https://sdsos.gov/elections-voting/assets/2016_CA_MarsysLaw_PetitionandSponsor.pdf

To read the existing South Dakota Crime Victims Bill of Rights that is part of current state law, click here:

http://www.sdlegislature.gov/statutes/Codified_laws/DisplayStatute.aspx?Statute=23A-28C&Type=StatuteChapter

To see Marsy's Law for All website, click here:

http://marsyslaw.us/