What Does Crime Victim Rights Amendment Mean to North Carolinians? On Tuesday, North Carolina voters approved an amendment to the North Carolina constitution which provides crime victim with a series of rights that now are ensconced in the constitution.  These rights include:

  • -The right to be treated with dignity and respect by the criminal justice system.

  • -The right as prescribed by law to be informed of and to be present at upon request to reasonable, accurate, and timely notice of court proceedings of the accused.

  • -The right upon request to be present at court proceedings of the accused.
  • -The right to be reasonably heard at sentencing of the accused in a manner prescribed by law, and at other times as prescribed by law or deemed appropriate by any court proceeding involving the plea, conviction, adjudication, sentencing, or release of the accused.

  • -The right as prescribed by law to receive restitution in a reasonably timely manner, when ordered by the court.

  • -The right as prescribed by law to be given information about the crime or act of delinquency, how the criminal justice system works, the rights of victims, and the availability of services for victims.

  • -The right as prescribed by law upon request to receive information about the conviction, adjudication, or final disposition and sentence of the accused.

  • -The right as prescribed by law upon request to receive notification of escape, release, proposed parole or pardon of the accused, or notice of a reprieve or commutation of the accused’s sentence.

  • -The right to present the victim’s views and concerns to the Governor or agency considering any action that could result in the release of the accused, prior to such action becoming effective.

  • -The right to reasonably confer with the prosecution.

Just what will this mean for crime victims in North Carolina.  Disappointingly, the amendment does not allow civil actions for money damages for violation of these rights.  The amendment specifically provides that nothing in the amendment shall be construed as creating a claim for money damages, or any cause of action, against the State, a county, a municipality, or any of the agencies, instrumentalities, or officers and employees thereof.

Rather, the General Assembly is directed to devise a procedure whereby a victim may assert the rights provided in this amendment. The victim or, if the victim is a minor, is legally incapacitated, or deceased, a family member, guardian, or legal custodian may assert the rights provided in this section. The procedure shall be by motion to the court of jurisdiction within the same criminal or juvenile proceeding giving rise to the rights. The victim, family member, guardian, or legal custodian have the right to counsel at this hearing but do not have the right to counsel provided by the State. If the matter involves an allegation that the district attorney failed to comply with the rights of a victim when obligated to so do by law, the victim must first afford the district attorney with jurisdiction over the criminal action an opportunity to resolve any issue in a timely manner.

Enshrining these rights in the constitution is definitely a large step in the process of affording crime victim rights with respect to the criminal proceedings resulting from the incident at issue.  It is unfortunate that the General Assembly did not provide for enforcement, via a civil claim for damages but instead ordered the legislature to come up with a procedure by which crime victims can enforce these important constitutional rights. One certainly hopes that the lack of teeth in the amendment may prove to be its undoing.

At The McGrath Firm. Representing crime victims is a primary focus of our practice.  If you or a loved one has been the victim of a violent crime, please contact us for a free case evaluation.