COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A new law, referred to as Marsy’s Law, went into effect on Thursday, expanding the rights of crime victims in Ohio.
In 2017, 83% of Ohioans voted in favor of putting Marsy’s Law into the Ohio’s Constitution. Since then, the bill’s sponsor, Representative Andrea White (R-Kettering), said rights have been unclear and ununiform across the state.
Now, there are 55 new crime victim provisions in the Ohio revised code to standardize crime victims’ rights across the state. Those include provisions to giving victims the option for privacy, so their name and information does not appear on public records, notifying victims if their offender appeals, has an early release or receives a pardon and clarifies the rights for restitution.
Upon first contact with law enforcement, crime victims will be handed a form like this one here, where their rights are explained and they can opt in or out.
“We want to do what we can to ensure you not only know what your rights are under Ohio law, but that you have the mechanisms that you can use to enforce those rights, get support for those rights,” White said.
“All victims of violent crimes now have access to fundamental rights at the broadest level,” Sophia Fifner of the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center said. “Marsy’s law is a game changer for crime victims, it’s a transformational step forward.”
White said, while the law going into effect is a big step forward, there is still more work to be done. She, alongside the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center, is asking for $8 million in the state’s budget. White said she is hopeful they will get the funding, and said ideally, it becomes recurring support from the state.
“It is absolutely critical that specific funding is included in the state budget to ensure crime victims have access to no cost legal services,” Executive Director for the Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center Cathy Lee Harper said.
Harper is also a crime survivor and said when she was going through the criminal justice system, it was apparent something needed changed.
“Although crime victims had rights, there was nothing we could do to protect and enforce our rights,” Harper said.
Harper said she was sexually assaulted from five to 16 years old.
“I was sexually assaulted by my step father, given to members of his motorcycle gang during parties and severely punished if I would cry or ask him to stop,” she said.
She said after high school, she left home and reported the crime.
“Even though I reported within the statute of limitations, I had witnesses, they did nothing to protect us,” Harper said. They wouldn’t even investigate.”
Harper said eventually, an investigation was underway. Still, it took three and a half years from the time she reported the crime for her stepfather to be convicted.
“That three and a half years was absolute hell. He had found out that I reported during that time, he was stalking and threatening to kill me,” she said. “Worse than that was the way I was treated by criminal justice officials.”
Harper said now she is relieved knowing that thanks to Marsy’s Law, crime victims in Ohio will no longer have to experience the criminal justice system the way she did.
You can find a ‘victim’s rights toolkit’ here.