National victim surveys indicate that almost every American age 12 and over will one day become the victim of a common law crime, such as larceny or burglary. (Resnick) Survey shows that more of the 75 percent of the general public has been victimized by crime at least once in their lifetime; as many as 25% of the victims develop posttraumatic stress syndrome, and their symptoms last for more than a decade after the crime occurred. (Kilpatrick) According to the Department of Justice, in the year 2000 there were almost 12 million serious crimes committed in the United States.
In a given day, on any street corner in America, someone's mother, someone's father, someone's son, someone's daughter, or someone's grandparents can become the next victim of a rapist, murderer, or robber. The victim's right movement began in response to the spread of two concerns. The first was the perception that the legal system was more concerned with the protection of the constitutional rights of criminal offenders and alleged offenders then there were with the victims of their offenses.
The second concern, which came from the media, that the number of released or paroled offenders were returning to society and attacking the original victims or the victims' family members in retaliation for reporting the original crime. (en. wikipedia. org) A presidential Task Force on Victim of a Crime was convened by President Ronald Reagan in 1982. This group saw a need for a balance between recognizing the victims' rights and protecting the defendant’s right to due process.
The task force concluded that the way to balance the victim's right and the defendant's rights would be to amend the U. S. Constitution. The purpose of the Victims' Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution would be to ensure complete protection to victims of violent crimes. Crime victim advocates first decided to get full protection under the state constitution's before going to the federal level. Every state has either a state constitution amendment or statutes that protect the victim’s rights.
Most state victim’s right amendments provide that the prosecutor stay in contact with the victim and their family at all stages of prosecution, and keep in contact with them post conviction to advise them of events such as parole hearings, application for pardon, or other forms of executive clemency. (citizensftv. org) Crime victim advocates argued that an amendment to the Constitution will establish uniformity in the criminal justice system and that it will ensure that the victims received the justice that they desire. Having the victims' rights added to the Constitution would guarantee that every citizen in every state would be protected.
Advocates argue that the amendment would give crime victims the right to be heard. This amendment would give crime victims' the right and power to confront their offenders in court, at sentencing, or parole hearings. This amendment would also consider the victim's interest in awarding restitution. Supporters of the Victim's Right Amendment includes Congressmen Honorable James A. Barcia, of the state of Michigan, John Walsh host of America's Most Wanted, and President Bush; whom announced his support for a federal constitution amendment to protect crime victims in his presidential campaign.
There are many organizations that are opposed to this amendment. These organizations include the National Network to End Domestic Violence, Citizens for the Fair Treatment of Victims, the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Legal Defense and Education Fund of the National Organization for Women (NOW LDEF), and Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation. These organizations believe that an amendment would be problematic. NOW LDEF has stated that a victim's right amendment would reverse the presumptions of innocent.
There is also the case with battered women that are arrested and charged with assaulting their batterer's would lose the right to a fair trial. There is worry that the wrong person would be convicted of a crime because of speedy prosecutions. Most opponents of the amendment believe that it will corrode the rights of the accused person, corrode the presumption of innocence, put in danger the right to a fair trial, hinder the ability of law-enforcement to effectively prosecute cases, discriminate between victims and impose legal liability on the states.
The Victim's Right Amendment would effect the criminal justice process by giving the accuser a constitutional status of victim which might impact the judge and jury, if this happens, this would make it extremely hard for people to remain unbiased when the victim is present at every court proceeding giving his or her opinion as to what should happen. The amendment makes the accuser a third-party in the criminal case. It has been argued that the amendment would cause unnecessary litigation that would take years to resolve it and cause immense uncertainties and confusion in criminal law.
A victim could obstruct proposed plea deals, the number of cases gone to trial will increase, and this would clog the court dockets and resolution of criminal and civil cases. It is believed that the amendment would under mind the administration of justice and jeopardize public safety. (commdocs. house. gov) I personally believe that crime victims deserve equal protection, but not if it compromises the due process of law. The American judicial system has always been that a person is innocent until proven guilty. This in my opinion is why the proof of guilt falls on the prosecution to prove.
If a victim is allowed to sit in the courtroom and contaminated the jury before they deliberate to determine a person's guilt or innocence undermines the legal system. It would contaminate the deliberation process and throw out the American belief of innocence until proven guilty. Instead of an amendment to the Constitution there should be other alternatives instead, such as an increase in victim compensation funding or the state could fund more prosecutors. Due process does not protect the guilty from the imprisonment, rather it protects the innocent. The United States Constitution should only be amendment as a last resort.