Bills to Help Implement Marsy’s Law Advance
When voters passed State Question 794 in 2018, they approved amendments to Oklahoma’s Constitution outlining a series of new rights. These rights are designed to protect the dignity of every crime victim, keep victims informed, and give victims a voice in the criminal justice process.
These constitutionally enshrined protections are a huge win, but more work is being done to ensure that the state of Oklahoma keeps the promises it makes to victims of crime. While the Constitution presents broadly defined rights, state statute needs to be updated to clarify how these rights are protected and how Marsy’s Law should be implemented.
For instance, Marsy’s Law outlines the right for every crime victim to be notified of all public proceedings involving a criminal defendant (or convicted perpetrator) and to be given a voice in those proceedings. Oklahoma statute, however, does not define how that notification should occur. Our goal at Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma is to update state law to reflect that district attorneys must inform victims of their right to file an impact statement and must also notify victims of their right to appear at events like pardon and parole and sentencing hearings. Similarly, to clarify the right to information protected by Marsy’s Law, we are seeking to update state law to reflect that DAs must notify victims when negotiating plea deals. For every Constitutionally protected right, our goal is for state statute to provide a specific and achievable implementation plan.
Marsy’s Law for Oklahoma is working closely with legislators – and with input from victims’ advocates like the YWCA and the Oklahoma Homicide Survivors Support Group – to make these kinds of statutory changes. House Bill 1102 and Senate Bill 999, authored by Rep. Mike Osburn and Sen. Julie Daniels, begins the process of aligning Oklahoma state law with the new Constitutional rights within Marsy’s Law. Both bills have passed in their chamber of origin (in fact, SB 999 was approved in the Senate by a vote of 48-0 last week!) and must now pass in the opposite chamber before they can be signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt.
We have been encouraged and inspired by the support our legislators have already given to this effort, especially Rep. Osburn and Sen. Daniels. The will of the people is clear: victims’ rights must be respected and protected. Our ongoing efforts at the State Capitol will help to ensure they are, and that Oklahoma keeps the promises it made to victims of crime when it passed State Question 794.