YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – A new law in Ohio went into effect Thursday that gives the victims of crime more power in the cases of the accused.
Ohio Governor Mike Dewine signed House Bill 343 into law earlier this year that expands Marsy’s Law in Ohio.
In its original form, Marsy’s Law, also known as the Ohio Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights, was approved by voters in 2017 to give victims the same rights as the accused. Victims must be notified about steps in the criminal justice process and their rights must be protected.
House Bill 343 creates and provides all participants in the criminal justice system with information to understand how the victim’s rights will be acknowledged.
For example, the first law enforcement officer in contact with a victim is now required to provide them a victim’s rights request form, as well as a pamphlet and information card. The victim’s rights request form allows a victim to opt in or waive their rights.
If the officer fails to share this with the victim, the prosecutor in the case is now also required to share and review the request form. This legislation was created with the victim in mind to ensure they are not lost in the process and their rights are protected.
HB 343 mandates compliance and prescribes specific requirements within the criminal justice system to ensure the protection of rights. Examples include:
- The Supreme Court must create a victim’s rights request form, which ensures that each and every criminal justice system official is aware of the rights each victim has chosen to assert.
- New procedures to ensure that victims’ rights to be notified, present, and heard during criminal justice proceedings are protected.
- The right of victims to have their names, addresses, and identifying information protected from public release.
- Guidance for criminal justice system officials and victims alike on mandatory restitution proceedings.
- Procedures for attorneys enforcing victims’ rights at the trial and appeals court levels.
According to Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins, Marsy’s Law is being tested in the death penalty case of Danny Lee Hill, the man accused of killing 12-year-old Raymond Fife over 30 years ago in Warren.
Through Watkins, Fife’s mother Miriam Fife, recently filed a “motion to intervene” in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court. It’s a way for the court to hear from Fife about her constitutional rights as a victim and her right to avoid “unreasonable delay” in seeking justice. Watkins says the case cites Marsy’s Law and the Hill case is one of the first in Ohio to use the expansion.