Victims' Rights

Constitutional Amendments

"When someone is a victim, he or she should be at the center of the criminal justice process, not on the outside looking in. Participation in all forms of government is the essence of democracy. Victims should be guaranteed the right to participate in proceedings related to crimes committed against them. People accused of crimes have explicit constitutional rights. Ordinary citizens have a constitutional right to participate in criminal trials by serving on a jury. The press has a constitutional right to attend trials. All of this is as it should be. It is only the victims of crime who have no constitutional right to participate, and that is not the way it should be."

President William Jefferson Clinton, Remarks at

Announcement of Victims' Rights Constitutional Amendment

June 25, 1996

The issue of federal constitutional protection of victims' rights was first raised in the landmark President's Task Force on Victims of Crime Final Report published in 1982. Its authors proposed augmenting the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to provide that ". . . the victim, in every criminal prosecution, shall have the right to be present and to be heard at all critical stages of judicial proceedings."

As of January 1998, 29 states have amended their constitutions with high percentages of voter approval to guarantee an array of rights for victims, including notification, participation, protection and input. A handful of states apply these constitutional rights to victims of juvenile, as well as adult, offenders.

In April of 1996, and again in the opening session of the new Congress in January of 1997, a Victims' Rights Constitutional Amendment was introduced by Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in the U.S. Senate and by Henry Hyde (R-IL) in the House of Representatives. In June of 1996, President Clinton endorsed the concept of a Federal Constitutional Amendment for Crime Victims' Rights in a special ceremony held at the White House. His moving words are quoted above.

The Judiciary Committees in the Senate and House of Representatives have held hearings on the federal constitutional amendment. Attorney General Janet Reno testified to the need for constitutional rights for crime victims at hearings held in 1997.

The proposed federal Victims' Rights Constitutional Amendment continues to receive strong bipartisan support, as well as support from organizations representing national, state and local victim services, law enforcement, criminal justice, and community and institutional corrections.

For additional information on the federal constitutional amendment now pending before the 105th Congress, contact your elected representative. You may also wish to contact:

National Organization for Victim Assistance

1757 Park Road, NW

Washington, D.C. 20010

202-232-6682 or 1-800-TRY-NOVA (879-6682)

National Victim Center

2111 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 300

Arlington, VA 22201

703-276-2880 or 1-800-FYI-CALL (394-2255)

History of State Victims' Rights

Constitutional Amendments


Year Passed Electoral Support State

Year Passed

Electoral Support

Alabama 1994 80% Nevada 1996 74%
Alaska 1994 87% New Jersey 1991 85%
Arizona 1990 58% New Mexico 1992 68%
California 1982 56% North Carolina 1996 78%
Colorado 1992 86% Ohio 1994 77%
Connecticut 1996 78% Oklahoma 1996 91%
Florida 1988 90% Oregon 1996 59%
Idaho 1994 79% Rhode Island 1986 *
Illinois 1992 77% South Carolina 1996 89%
Indiana 1996 89% Texas 1989 73%
Kansas 1992 84% Utah 1994 68%
Maryland 1994 92% Virginia 1996 84%
Michigan 1992 84% Washington 1989 78%
Missouri 1992 84% Wisconsin 1993 84%
Nebraska 1996 78%

* Passed by Constitutional Convention.

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