September 3rd, 2018
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State Question 794 known as Marsy’s Law, would add several new rights for crime victims to the Oklahoma Constitution.
State Question 794 would add several new rights for crime victims to the Oklahoma Constitution.
The measure, commonly known as Marsy’s Law, would give victims the right to be notified about proceedings in the criminal case they are involved in, to be heard in most court proceedings on their case, to receive full and timely restitution, and to speak with the prosecutor of the case upon request.
During the 2017 legislative session, the Oklahoma Legislature voted to put SQ 794 to a vote of the people on the November 2018 ballot. Oklahoma follows several other states that have already voted on similar measures.
Marsy’s Law was first passed in California in 2008, and it has since been adopted in five other states: Illinois, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, and Ohio.
In 2017, the Montana Supreme Court struck down that state’s adoption of the law, ruling that the ballot measure included too many separate issues and did not give voters the opportunity to express their opinion on each change. It is not clear whether SQ 794 could be challenged for similar reasons in Oklahoma.
The campaign for SQ 794 is financed mainly by Dr. Henry T. Nicholas, a wealthy California man whose sister, Marsy, was killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. The effort is supported by a local affiliate of the national group, Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma.
This measure amends the provision of the Oklahoma Constitution that guarantees certain rights for crime victims. These rights would now be protected in a manner equal to the defendant’s rights. The measure would also make changes to victims’ rights, including:
(1) expanding the court proceedings at which victims have the right to be heard;
(2) adding a right to reasonable protection;
(3) adding a right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay;
(4) adding a right to talk with the prosecutor; and
(5) allowing victims to refuse interview requests from the defendant without a subpoena.
The Oklahoma Constitution currently grants victims’ rights to crime victims and their family members. This measure would instead grant these rights to crime victims and those directly harmed by the crime. Victims would no longer have a constitutional right to know the defendant’s location following arrest, during prosecution, and while sentenced to confinement or probation, but would have the right to be notified of the defendant’s release or escape from custody.
Under this measure, victims would have these rights in both adult and juvenile proceedings. Victims’ rights would be protected in a manner equal to the rights of the defendants. Victims would be able to assert these rights in court and the court would be required to act promptly.
More about State Question 794
- 2018 Fact Sheet: SQ 794 (PDF) [OK Policy]
- SQ 794 documents [Secretary of State]
- Oklahoma State Question 794, Marsy’s Law Crime Victim Rights Amendment (2018) [Ballotpedia]
- Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma SQ 794 PAC website [MarsysLaw4OK]
- Marsy’s Law is well-intentioned but be wary of unintended consequences [OK Policy blog]
- The billionaire behind ‘Marsy’s Law’ effort [Oklahoma Watch]
Visit our 2018 State Questions and Elections page for more information on Oklahoma ballot measures and elections. Download this fact sheet as a PDF or download all five State Questions as a single PDF.