1997-98 Academy Text Supplement
History of Law: The Evolution of Victims' Rights
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 J. 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 ratification to guarantee an array of rights for victims, including notification, participation, protection and input. A handful of states applies these constitutional rights to victims of juvenile, as well as adult, offenders.
Federal Constitutional Amendment
For additional information about the federal constitutional amendment now pending before Congress, contact your elected representative. You may also wish to contact:
National Victims' Constitutional Amendment Network
789 Sherman Street, Suite 505
Denver, Colorado 80203
Telephone: (303) 832-1552 or 1-800-529-8226
Fax: (303) 861-1265
State Constitutional Amendments
History of State Victims' Rights
|Year Passed||Electoral Support||State||
* Passed by Constitutional Convention.