Ballot proposal aims to ensure rights for crime victims in Montana


HELENA – Thirty-two states have some level of Constitutional rights for victims of crimes.

Next year, voters may have an chance to add Montana to that list.

A group backing a measure called Marsy’s Law has filed proposed ballot language with the Montana Secretary of State, starting the process to bring the measure to the 2016 ballot.

The proposal is named for a California college student murdered in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend.

A week after her murder, her family members were confronted in a store by the attacker, who was out on bail.

The Constitutional amendment would create a Victims’ Bill of Rights, assuring victims the same kind of rights defendants have.

“It would make sure that victims are taken care of throughout the process, make sure that they’re in the loop on what’s going on, what the prosecutor’s doing – all those things that are afforded to, usually, the defendant, said Derek VanLuchene, founder and director of Ryan United in Helena, a national victim advocacy group. “We want those victims to have those same rights.”

The proposal lists 19 rights for victims, focused on ensuring safety and knowledge of the case.

It includes the right to participate in various parts of the criminal proceedings; notifications of hearings, escapes, and releases; and a promise of restitution.

Some of these things already happen or are mandated by law, and VanLuchene said many of the larger jurisdictions in Montana already have victim advocates.

But the measure would formalize those rights in the Montana Constitution.

Ryan’s United is named for VanLuchene’s brother Ryan, who was abducted from his yard in 1987 (at age 8), sexually assaulted, and murdered by a repeat sex offender.

Click here to learn more about Marsy’s Law.