It is only several decades since the rights of the victims of some crimes started to be recognized. Before that the victims had no rights during the process of the criminal justice. They were not supposed to be informed about the arrest or release of the accused person, they were not informed about or were not allowed to be present at the proceedings at the court and thus had no chance to make a statement at the court. Nowadays there are not few laws aiming to protect the rights of the victims. 32 states agreed to include these laws into their Constitutions.
In some more states people are working at these amendments. In 1982 the Sixth Amendment was recommended to include the rights of crime victims. Soon national crime victims’ leaders started to investigate and examine the possibilities to implement these recommendations to the U. S. Constitution. They decided to create and organization, called Victims’ Constitutional Amendment Network (Victims CAN) (Krenks, 1999). The goals of the victim advocates were usually as follows: increase the strength, permanence and enforceability of victims’ rights.
Speaking about strength – they meant that the rights, which are guaranteed by Constitution, are actually stronger than those, assured by statutes. There’s not a single law that can violate the Constitution. It would also be necessary for the public to be aware of these rights and not only people, who take part directly in the process at the court – advocates, judges and prosecutors. When it became the Constitutional law almost every person new about it and could name the main points of it.
An important issue seems to be the permanence of the victims’ rights, the statues can be changed, but it is certainly not that easy to change the Constitution of a state. Enforceability is also guaranteed by including them into Constitution. Uniformity of the rights is the basis of their application irrespective of the location of crime (Kopel, 1996). Other critics state that: “Amending the Constitution should be reserved for only those occasions when no other alternative is available.
And that is not the case with victims’ rights” (Twist, 2002). The matter of the victims’ rights to be or not to be a part of Constitution is still a rather controversial question. Anybody in this world can at any time become a victim, so this question touches everybody either directly or potentially. On the one hand it is certainly unacceptable for the victims to take any decisions concerning investigations or arrests, they have the right to hire a prosecutor to defend their position, but they can not either be ignored.
The Amendment was worked out exactly in order to provide the ground for victim support instead of ignoring them. The situations, when the victim is treated like a criminal, or at least feels treated like that, should be at any rate avoided. So the Victims’ Rights Amendment was created in order to bring balance to the judicial system. With this Amendment the victims got the following rights: – they are informed about any public proceeding connected with the crime and about any release or escape of the accused;
– they are not excluded from these public proceedings; – they can be reasonably heard at various stages and bail hearings also;they can receive the restitution of the convicted offender (Kopel, 1996). Some studies demonstrated, that in every state where the statutes to protect victims’ rights were accepted, they are often ignored and violated. Though it is certainly very important for the criminal justice system to organize properly the participation of the victims as it is dependent on that and needs it for the effective work.
It is clear that victims are more luckily to cooperate, when they feel that their rights are not ignored and that they are treated with dignity. So the Amendment could balance the scales of justice. As the existing state victims’ right differs a lot from others, federal constitutional amendment could ensure the uniform rights. It is evident from the most of the above-mentioned facts that this kind of Constitutional Amendment could bring some positive changes to the judicial system in the U. S. , but there is usually another side of the medal.
The first question that arises is – who can count as a victim? If there was an attempt to kill somebody, than probably the target person can be considered to be the victim. If the murder took place, one of the members of the family was killed, how is it to decide who else has the victim status, should they be only first- degree relatives? Or other relatives as well? It usually happens so, that it is necessary to wait for the jury to come out with their decision, before it becomes clear who were the legal victims.
There are also cases of victimless crimes, they include actions of a person prohibited by the law, but not affecting other people or their rights. There is also a number of controversial issues connected with victimless crimes. There is an idea that we can not talk about victims in such cases and there is an opposite opinion that victimless crimes, violating social laws, make the society the victim. There could be several examples of generally considered victimless crimes: prostitution, abortion, drugs sales, homosexuality (Stephanie, 2000).
The basis of dualism here is that these crimes could be viewed as crimes without victims or from the other side as victims without crimes. Homosexuality seems to be the best example fitting the notion of victimless crime. It is clear that some people would never consider homosexual behavior to be the norm for the society, but from the other hand there is no other evidences of the harm done to society by gay people. They made their choice about their sexual orientation and built their private life the way they wanted to do it.
There are two views about homosexuality, according to the first one – this is a behavioral disorder and according to the second – this is a natural condition for certain individuals. Even if to take the worst, namely disorder, it cannot be considered a crime, but an illness. The logical conclusion is that if there is no evident victim of the crime, or there is no concrete harm done to some concrete individual then this crime is victimless.
Kopel D. (1996) Victims’ Rights Amendment is All Wrong. 4-8 Krenks. J. (1999). National Constitutional Amendment for Victim Rights, HP Magazine Lord. J. (1997). National Constitutional Amendment for victim rights, Driven magazine. Mosteller P. (2003). With Disdain for the Constitutional Craft, 78 N. C. L. Rev. at 382–85 Pilon. R. (1978). “Criminal Remedies: Restitution, Punishment, or Both? ” 88 Ethics 384 Robert F. Kennedy (1996). President Calls for Crime Victims’ Rights Amendment Department of Justice Washington, D. C. Stephanie F. (2000). The Long Haul: The Fight for Victim Rights MADDvocate. 1-3 Twist. S. (2002). Why The Rights of Victims Can Only Be Secured In The United States Constitution. Office of the Press Secretary. 2-4