1983 – California – 21-year-old Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas is afraid. Her ex-boyfriend is stalking her. She knows that something bad is about to happen.

She is right. Soon after she feels those intuitions, she is murdered by her ex-boyfriend. Days after Marsy’s murder, her mother sees the accused killer in the grocery store.

No one told the family that the accused had been released on bail.

Her brother, who perhaps suffered the worst from the DA not notifying the family, is determined to prevent other families from enduring similar pain and give alleged victims a stronger voice in the criminal justice system. He launches Marsy’s Law for All.

This movement represents a nationwide campaign that seeks to place alleged crime victims’ rights in state constitutions. Many states and the federal government already have similar alleged victims’ bill of rights in their laws. But, their enforcement was inconsistent.

By placing these rights in state constitutions, Marsy’s Law strives to give alleged victims stronger options to hold governments accountable for failing to protect victims’ rights. The campaign seeks to place alleged victims’ rights on equal footing with criminal defendants’ rights in every state constitution. California became the first state in 2008 to approve Marsy’s Law as an amendment to the state constitution.

May 8, 2018 – Governor Nathan Deal signs the bill to implement Marsy’s Law in Georgia. It quickly takes effect as voters approve constitutional rights for crime victims in November.

“Our landmark criminal justice reforms over the past eight years are saving tax dollars, decreasing recidivism and bolstering our workforce,” said Deal. “Marsy’s Law for Georgia complements these efforts by strengthening the protections for those who’ve been hurt by criminal actions.”

How Does Marsy’s Law Work in Georgia?

According to the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia (PAC), Marsy’s The Georgia Crime Victims Bill of Rights (MGCVBR), O.C.G.A. 17-17-1 provides individuals who are victims of crimes specific rights. Effective January 1, 2019, these rights are constitutionally protected and enforced (Georgia Constitution Art. I, Sect. I, Paragraph XXX).

These rights include:

  • The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of any scheduled court proceedings or any changes to such proceedings;
  • The right to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of the arrest, release, or escape of the accused;
  • The right not to be excluded from any scheduled court proceedings, except as provided by law;
  • The right to be heard at any scheduled court proceedings involving the release, plea, or sentencing of the accused;
  • The right to file a written objection in any parole proceedings involving the accused;
  • The right to confer with the prosecuting attorney in any criminal prosecution related to the victim;
  • The right to restitution as provided by law;
  • The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay;
  • The right to be treated fairly and with dignity by all criminal justice agencies involved in the case;
  • The right to file a motion in the criminal case within 20 days of a court proceeding requesting to be heard if the victim has properly requested notification and is not given notice of said court proceeding;
  • That it is possible that the accused may be released from custody prior to trial;
  • That victims have certain rights during various stages of the criminal justice system; and
  • That victims have the right to refuse or agree to be interviewed by the accused, the accused’s attorney, or anyone who represents or contacts you on behalf of the accused;

Just like every change in policy, there is a level of controversy. However, this is an excellent law because it provides alleged victims an opportunity to engage in the criminal justice process. In a way, it provides alleged victims a sense of control where before they had very little.

In west Georgia, our prosecutors are taking MGCVBR very seriously and alleged victims enjoy all of the rights under this constitutional amendment.

Some folks may wonder why a criminal defense attorney would support this. There are two reasons: (1) I am a citizen first and a lawyer second. (2) I have been a victim of a crime. I know firsthand how being a crime victim affects a person and their family.

For additional information about these stages, contact the pertinent state and/or local agency involved, or contact the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council at 404-657-1956.