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Illinois Passes Victims' Rights Amendment

Posted on in Criminal Defense

victims rights amendment in Illinois, Elgin criminal law attorneyVoters across the state recently went to the ballot boxes to make decisions about their elected officials, but these are not the only decisions they faced. The Illinois ballot also included an unusually high number of referendum and advisory questions, questions that allow voters to weigh in directly on the process of making laws. One of these questions was a possible constitutional amendment that affected the Illinois Crime Victims' Bill of Rights. This amendment, which passed by an overwhelming margin of over three to one, made a variety of changes to expand the rights of victims in the criminal process. It also gave the victims the ability to enforce these rights in court.

What the Amendment Does

Section 8.1 of Article I of the Illinois Constitution is the Crime Victims' Bill of Rights. Prior to the amendment, the section provided victims with a variety of rights like the right to be present at the offender's trial. The Amendment modified some of these rights and added new ones. For instance, the Bill of Rights provided victims the right to dignity and privacy throughout the proceedings. The amendment modified that provision to add a right to not be intimidated, harassed or abused. The amendment also added a provision to require courts to consider the victim's safety when determining issues of bail and release after an arrest or conviction. The full text of the changes made by the amendment is available here. In addition to these substantive changes, a new portion of the law provides victims with "standing" to enforce these rights in court.

What Standing Is

Standing is a legal doctrine that determines who has the right to sue for an injury. The intricacies of the doctrine can be quite complicated, but in its basic form, it requires the person in the lawsuit to have some interest in the case at hand. For instance, it would be nonsensical for a person who sees a car accident happen to sue the person who caused it on behalf of the victim. This doctrine had previously presented a problem for victims seeking to enforce their rights in court because the courts did not recognize their standing in the case. This constitutional amendment changes that. Now, victims may legally enforce the rights provided to them. While it is not entirely clear how courts will handle these challenges, it may allow victims to force judges to respect their rights, such as letting them make a statement to the court at sentencing, a right they always had, but could not always ensure was properly respected by judges.

If you have found yourself involved in a criminal proceeding either as a defendant or a victim, contact an Elgin, Illinois criminal defense attorney today to learn more about your rights and how you can exercise them.

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