SPRINGFIELD, IL â€” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan highlighted a new state law that will protect the rights of survivors of crime, and ensure they can be heard in court. House Bill 1121, sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) and Senate President John Cullerton (D Chicago), was passed by the General Assembly nearly unanimously and signed into law Aug. 20.
The new law reconciles the Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act with the Constitutional Crime Victimsâ€™ Rights Amendment that voters adopted in November 2014. The law defines who is considered a crime victim. It also provides procedures for victims to assert their rights, procedures for prosecutors and courts to ensure that victims are afforded their rights, and outlining procedures for victims seeking a remedy in the event their rights have been violated.
â€œSurvivors of crime deserve the right to seek justice and to be heard in court, and last November, the people of Illinois agreed and amended our Constitution,â€ said Madigan. â€œNow, with this law, we have detailed procedures to ensure our criminal justice system is protecting the constitutional rights of individuals who have survived violent crimes, helping them rebuild their lives.â€
The Crime Victimsâ€™ Rights Amendment, also known as Marsyâ€™s Law, was passed last year by over 78 percent of voters and amended the Illinois Constitution to ensure survivors have comprehensive, meaningful and enforceable rights, including:
- The right to be treated with fairness and respect and to be free from harassment, intimidation, and abuse throughout the criminal justice process;
- The right to receive notice and to participate in a hearing when there is a request for access to the victimâ€™s confidential or privileged records;
- The right to timely notification of all court proceedings;
- The right to communicate with the prosecution;
- The right to be heard at any court proceeding involving the rights of a victim, a post-arraignment release decision, plea or sentencing;
- The right to be notified of the conviction, sentence, imprisonment and release of the accused;
- The right to timely disposition of the case following the arrest of the accused;
- The right to be reasonably protected from the accused throughout the criminal justice process;
- The right to have the safety of the victim and the victimâ€™s family considered when determining bail and conditions of release after conviction;
- The right to be present at the trial and all other court proceedings;
- The right to have an advocate and other support of the victimâ€™s choice present at all court proceedings; and
- The right to restitution.
Under the amendment, victims are also able to seek appellate review of court decisions that impact their ability to exercise their rights.
â€œPeople who survive violent crimes should have the right to take an active role in making sure the perpetrators of those crimes are held accountable,â€ said Lang. â€œI am proud of this new law that enables survivors to be involved in the process, which will hopefully assist them in obtaining some closure.â€
â€œWhen prosecutors enter the courtroom, they are speaking for the victim, and it is important that the victimâ€™s voice is amplified,â€ said Cullerton. â€œTo encourage victim participation in the justice process, we must make sure that doing so does not add to the trauma survivors have already overcome.â€
Under HB 1121, victims will provide prosecutors and judges with a checklist of the rights they want to assert. Prosecutors are charged with asserting those rights on victimsâ€™ behalf, and victims may also retain an attorney to protect their rights. At the start of a court proceeding, judges will be required to determine whether a victim has been properly notified of the proceeding.
In addition to outlining how other victimsâ€™ rights will be asserted and preserved, the law also sets forth the factors a judge must consider when deciding what the remedy will be for a violation of a victimâ€™s constitutional right. It also allows for victims to appeal a trial courtâ€™s decision regarding their rights.
â€œThis is a tremendous victory for victims of crime. Illinois voters overwhelmingly voted â€˜yes,â€™ and the governorâ€™s signature is the final hurdle inÂ giving crime victims the rights they deserve,â€ said Polly Poskin, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault. â€œICASA commends the Illinois legislature, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and victim advocates for this courageous action on behalf of victimsâ€™ rights.â€
The Crime Victimsâ€™ Rights Amendment and HB1121 were both supported by the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Illinois Stateâ€™s Attorneysâ€™ Association, the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence and numerous victimsâ€™ rights organizations.
Attorney General Madiganâ€™s Crime Victim Services Division manages several programs that provide assistance to crime victims and service providers. For more information about the Crime Victims Services Division or the rights afforded to survivors of crime, please visit the Attorney Generalâ€™s website or call her officeâ€™s toll-free Crime Victimsâ€™ Assistance Line: 1-800-228-3368 or 1-877-398-1130 (TTY).
House Bill 1121 goes into effect immediately.