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Marsy’s Law in Pennsylvania

Written by: on November 01, 2019 | Category: Blog | Tags: ,

On Election Day 2019, Pennsylvania residents will cast votes on a referendum question about Marsy’s Law. The law addresses a proposed state constitutional amendment regarding crime victims’ rights. What is Marsy’s Law and what does the vote mean?


What is Marsy’s Law?

Marsy’s Law is a proposed victims’ bill of rights, addressing these 15 areas for those defined as “a person against whom a criminal offense or delinquent act was committed and who was directly harmed by the offense or act right.”

If approved, Marsy’s Law would provide crime victims and their families with constitutional rights to participate in proceedings and receive information related to the accused. Most notably, these rights include information about release, parole, and plea deals before offered. Additionally, victims could supply statements in criminal proceedings and refuse an interview or discovery request made by the accused.

So far, eleven other states have adopted laws similar to this into their state constitutions.


Pennsylvania voters decide, maybe

preliminary injunction entered on October 30, 2019 determined PA votes on Marsy’s Law will not be counted or certified at this time. Judge Ceisler found:

“This Court concludes that Petitioners have raised substantial questions as to the constitutionality of the Proposed Amendment in terms of both a violation of Article XI, Section 1’s separate vote requirement, and its facial impact on other articles and sections of the Constitution… The Proposed Amendment addresses a wide range of subject matters including bail, discovery, due process, restitution, the right to privacy, and evidence control, all under the auspices of connecting them to victims’ rights.”

Furthermore, the injunction found that the proposed constitutional amendment would have “immediate, profound, and in some instances, irreversible, consequences on the constitutional rights of the accused and in the criminal justice system.”

What does this mean for Pennsylvania voters on November 5? The question will remain on the ballot and votes recorded. However, tabulation and certification will be stayed, pending a final decision. It is widely anticipated that this case will ultimately be decided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Should the proposed amendment be deemed to have been properly added to the ballot, the votes will count.


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