Ohio Victims' Rights Laws

Also Known as Marsy's Law


Marsy’s Law, named for Marsy Nicholas who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983, was enacted by voters in November 2017 as an amendment to Ohio's Constitution. California was the first state to adopt Marsy's Law in 2008; Ohio is the sixth state to adopt the constitutional amendment, also known as the Ohio Crime Victim's Bill of Rights.
 
Many of the crime victims’ rights guaranteed by Marsy’s Law already existed in the Ohio Revised Code or Ohio’s Rules of Evidence. Adding specific language to the Ohio Constitution, however, makes sure that everyone involved in the criminal justice system—police, prosecutors, court clerks, and judge—know what rights crime victims have. Moreover, the law explicitly makes available remedies to crime victims if their constitutional rights are violated.
 
Constitution
Article I, § 10a, Rights of Victims of Crime


 (A) To secure for victims justice and due process throughout the criminal and juvenile justice systems, a victim shall have the following rights, which shall be protected in a manner no less vigorous than the rights afforded to the accused:
(1) to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim's safety, dignity and privacy;
(2) upon request, to reasonable and timely notice of all public proceedings involving the criminal offense or delinquent act against the victim, and to be present at all such proceedings;
(3) to be heard in any public proceeding involving release, plea, sentencing, disposition, or parole, or in any public proceeding in which a right of the victim is implicated;
(4) to reasonable protection from the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused;
(5) upon request, to reasonable notice of any release or escape of the accused;
(6) except as authorized by section 10 of Article I of this constitution, to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused;
(7) to full and timely restitution from the person who committed the criminal offense or delinquent act against the victim;
(8) to proceedings free from unreasonable delay and a prompt conclusion of the case;
(9) upon request, to confer with the attorney for the government; and
(10) to be informed, in writing, of all rights enumerated in this section.
(B) The victim, the attorney for the government upon request of the victim, or the victim's other lawful representative, in any proceeding involving the criminal offense or delinquent act against the victim or in which the victim's rights are implicated, may assert the rights enumerated in this section and any other right afforded to the victim by law. If the relief sought is denied, the victim or the victim's lawful representative may petition the court of appeals for the applicable district, which shall promptly consider and decide the petition.
(C) This section does not create any cause of action for damages or compensation against the state, any political subdivision of the state, any officer, employee, or agent of the state or of any political subdivision, or any officer of the court.
(D) As used in this section, "victim" means a person against whom the criminal offense or delinquent act is committed or who is directly and proximately harmed by the commission of the offense or act. The term "victim" does not include the accused or a person whom the court finds would not act in the best interests of a deceased, incompetent, minor, or incapacitated victim.
(E) All provisions of this section shall be self-executing and severable, and shall supersede all conflicting state laws.

This Section took effect on February 5, 2018

What does this mean to victims of crime in the State of Ohio?
It is important to note that this document includes a list of rights that each provision may encompass, it is not meant to be construed as an exhaustive list or definition of what each provision means. The rights are subject to legislative, judicial, and legal interpretation.

Who is a Victim?
The definition of “victim” is changed from the definition in Ohio Revised Code § 2930.
Victim is now defined as the person against whom the criminal act is committed or the person directly and proximately harmed by the criminal offense. Currently, the definition of “victim” only includes victims of certain crimes who are identified as victims in a police report. Numerous Ohio courts have recognized the limitations of this definition, and have applied the more broad definition contained in Black’s Law Dictionary. For example, under Marsy’s Law, adult parents of a child victim could also be considered victims or persons in a vehicle who are injured as the result of a vehicular homicide could also be considered victims.

What are the Victim’s Rights?
To secure for victims justice and due process throughout the criminal and juvenile justice systems, a victim shall have the following rights, which shall be protected in a manner no less vigorous than the rights afforded to the accused:

A.        The right to be informed, in writing, of Marsy’s Law rights.
Several provisions of the Ohio Revised Code provide that victims have the right to be informed of victims’ rights in Ohio.

B.        The victim, the attorney for the government upon request of the victim, or the victim's other lawful representative, in any proceeding involving the criminal offense or delinquent act against the victim or in which the victim's rights are implicated, may assert the rights enumerated in this section and any other right afforded to the victim by law. If the relief sought is denied, the victim or the victim's lawful representative may petition the court of appeals for the applicable district, which shall promptly consider and decide the petition.

C.        The right to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy.
      The right to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect already existed in Ohio’s constitution. The right to privacy exists for all U.S. and Ohio citizens.

D.        The right, upon request, to reasonable and timely notice of all public proceedings and the right to be present at those proceedings.

This right is triggered by a request from the victim. Upon that request, the victim must be notified of proceedings and must be allowed to attend all on the record proceedings in the case.  Ohio Revised Code § 2930.06, § 2930.09, and Evidence Rule 615 have provided victims with these rights since the 1990s. Eight of Ohio’s twelve district courts have upheld victims’ rights to be present over defense objections.


E.         The right to be heard in public proceedings involving release, plea, sentencing, disposition, or parole, or in any proceeding that implicates a Marsy’s Law right.  Ohio Revised Code § 2930.13, § 2930.14, and § 2930.17, among others, currently provide victims with the right to give victim impact statements at sentencing and parole hearings. Marsy’s Law expands the right to be heard to include other hearings such as release, including arraignment, and plea. The reasoning behind this is that the victim is often in a unique position to explain to the court the risk an offender poses upon release and to help the court understand the true impact of the crime before accepting a plea.

F.         The right to confer with the prosecutor, upon request.  Ohio Revised Code § 2930.06 already provides victims with the right to confer(speak) with the prosecutor. However, the right is no longer limited by the statutory language “to the extent practicable.”

G.        The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay and a prompt conclusion of the case.  Currently, Ohio Revised Code § 2930.08 provides victims the right to object to substantial delays in prosecution and to have those objections considered by the court. This provision essentially makes that guarantee enforceable.

H.        The right to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request by an accused, except as provided by Article I, Section 10 of Ohio’s constitution.  This provision preserves the balance between Criminal Rule 16 and Criminal Rule 17(c). The United States Supreme Court (and the Ohio Supreme Court) have been very clear that criminal discovery and the mechanism to get information from third parties, like victims, in the criminal justice process are distinct. Criminal Rule 17(c) dictates that prosecutors and defendants must use subpoenas to get information from victims and other third parties.

I.          The right to full and timely restitution from the offender.  This provision makes restitution, which is currently discretionary, mandatory. Implementation language should include, but is not limited to: determination by preponderance of evidence standard, preservation of offender’s assets, civil judgements, and prioritized order in which restitution is paid.

J.          The right to reasonable protection from the accused or any person acting on behalf of the accused.  There are many Ohio Revised Code sections that provide victims with protections from the accused, such as the sections on protection orders, witness intimidation, protection of identification information, etc. This provision is essentially a summary of those pre-existing rights. It is a right to reasonable protection, so it will not pose a new and undue burden.

K.        The right, upon request, to reasonable notice of escape or release of the accused.  Victims of felony crimes in Ohio already have this right, and the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and Department of Youth Services have an effective system and policies for complying with it. Marsy’s Law does expand the definition of victim to include victims of misdemeanors. All jails and prisons will now be required to provide notice, upon request of the victim.


What Marsy’s Law Does Not Do


Marsy’s Law does not:

  • Allow victims to act as prosecutors;
  • Give victims the right to appeal acquittals(not guilty verdicts);
  • Allow victims to sue criminal justice officials (law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, etc.) for rights violations;
  • Let either a prosecutor or an Ohio victim’s right lawyer unduly delay legal proceedings; or
  • Give victims the ability to control a criminal case.


As a victim, you can register through VINE at 1-800-770-0192, TTY 1-866-847-1298 or at https://www.vinelink.com/#/home