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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 98714 Find in a Library
Title: Private Citizens - Allies of Justice?
Journal: Criminal Justice Journal  Volume:7  Issue:2  Dated:(Summer 1984)  Pages:251-274
Author(s): L E Akers
Date Published: 1984
Page Count: 24
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This review of various statutes, movements, and organizations pertaining to citizen efforts to aid crime victims and contribute to the dispensing of justice considers laws mandating the duty to rescue, search and seizure by private parties, California's 'Victims' Bill of Rights,' and citizen anticrime organizations.
Abstract: Several States have attempted to force bystander aid to crime victims by imposing criminal sanctions for failure to aid those in peril. These laws are difficult to enforce and could precipitate a dangerous trend toward treating all significant omissions as constituting criminal rather than civil liability. The courts have fostered citizen involvement in criminal justice by not binding private parties with fourth amendment prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures of other citizens' property. The courts should consider balancing the potential for abuse as well as benefits of such a citizen prerogative against privacy and due process rights. In California, citizens lobbied for and won the 'Victims' Bill of Rights' on June 8, 1982. This bill restricts plea bargaining, limits the insanity and diminished capacity defenses, attempts to limit the exclusionary rule, and increases sentences for numerous felonies. The proposition has renewed debate about California's initiative process that permits citizens to bypass the legislature in making laws. Other citizen efforts to address crime include neighborhood watch programs, programs that encourage anonymous citizen tips to police about crimes, and groups which pressure courts and parole boards to be harsh to offenders. Opponents of such programs have called them vigilantism, but this term should be reserved for organizations which patrol neighborhoods armed with weapons and refuse to cooperate with police. A total of 114 footnotes are provided.
Index Term(s): Block watch; California; Search and seizure laws; State laws; Victims rights; Vigilantes; Witness intervention in crime
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