Georgia enacted a raft of new laws in 2019. Legislation giving more rights to the victims of crimes came into effect.

Marsy’s Law is an amendment to the Georgia Constitution. It received the backing of 81 percent of voters during November’s general election, reported WSB 2.

The law gives more information to victims of crimes. Since the start of the year, they have received notifications before hearings in cases involving defendants accused of causing them physical or financial harm. Existing state laws provided notifications to crime victims as their cases moved through the legal process. Those rights are now enshrined in the Georgia Constitution.

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsy Nicholas. The University of California-Santa Barbara student was stalked and ultimately killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Her mother and brother were confronted by the ex-boyfriend in a store a week after the killing.

Voters in more than half a dozen states have backed Marsy’s law. Although the legislation appears uncontroversial, some commentators fear it will make it more difficult for defendants to receive a fair trial. The law gives a constitutional right to people directly harmed by an offense to request and receive notifications including when a defendant is released from jail.

Victims have the right to be informed about any public proceedings involving the accused.

Is There a Downside to Marsy’s Law?

According to Pew, the American Civil Liberties Union, criminal defense attorneys, and some prosecutors said states were already doing plenty to protect victims. They claimed Marsy’s Law makes it harder for the defendant to get a fair trial.

John Piro, the chief deputy public defender for Nevada’s Clark County, warned Marsy’s Law could interfere with a defendant’s due process rights. He said it means victims could be present and heard even before the defendant pleaded innocent or guilty.

Critics of Marsy’s Law said over the past four decades, the courts enshrined victims’ rights in its processes. Before that, they were often shut out.

If you have been arrested and charged with a crime in Newnan or in the Metro Atlanta area, please contact our criminal defense team at (404) 913-1529.