Victim Services

III. Victims and a Federal Constitutional Amendment

The move to enact federal legislation to protect the rights of violent crime victims and in particular an amendment to the United States Constitution has a long history and support from both liberals and conservatives. On June 25, 1996, President Bill Clinton voiced his position on such proposed legislation:

Almost 7 years later, on May 9, 2002, President George W. Bush voiced similar support for the victims of crime. In a speech at the Department of Justice, President Bush gave his support to a federal constitutional amendment for violent crime victims:

Although the proposed amendment had 24 cosponsors, including a majority of the members of the subcommittee, and it had also been endorsed by President Bush and by Attorney General Ashcroft, it failed to pass. As a statutory alternative, as mentioned above, the Justice for All Act of 2004 was enacted to protect crime victims’ rights.

The Justice for All Act accomplishes a number of major goals. As noted by the Office for Victims of Crime (2004),

Some of the specific elements of the Justice for All Act are to amend the federal criminal code to grant crime victims specified rights, including a number of rights that relate to victim compensation and the criminal justice process. The specific rights include (1) the right to be reasonably protected from the accused; (2) the right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any public court proceeding or any parole proceeding involving the crime, or of any release or escape of the accused; (3) the right not to be excluded from any such public court proceeding, unless the court, after receiving clear and convincing evidence, determines that testimony by the victim would be materially altered if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding; (4) the right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding; (5) the reasonable right to confer with the attorney for the government in the case; (6) the right to full and timely restitution as provided in law; (7) the right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay; and (8) the right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy (Office for Victims of Crime fact sheet, http://www.ovc.gov/publications/factshts/justforall/content.html#3).

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