AN ACT TO AMEND THE CONSTITUTION OF NORTH CAROLINA TO PROVIDE BETTER PROTECTIONS AND SAFEGUARDS TO VICTIMS OF CRIME.
Subject to voter approval at the statewide election in November 2018, amends Section 37 of Article I of the NC Constitution to amend the rights of victims of crime as follows.
Amends subsection (1) of Section 37, which delineates the basic rights of victims of crime. Eliminates all "prescribed by law" language in the existing detailed rights. Amends the following rights to now provide: (1) the right, upon request, to reasonable and timely notice of, and to be present at criminal and juvenile proceedings of the accused (currently, the right as prescribed by law to be informed of and to be present at court proceedings of the accused); (2) the right to be heard at sentencing or disposition of the accused and at any proceedings involving release, plea, parole, and during which a right of the victim is implicated (currently, the right to be heard at sentencing of the accused in a manner prescribed by law and at other times as prescribed by law or deemed appropriate by the court); (3) the right to receive full and timely restitution from the defendant (currently, the right as prescribed by law to receive restitution); and (4) the right, upon request, to receive notification of escape, release, proposed parole or pardon of the accused, or notice of a reprieve or commutation of the accused's sentence (currently, the right as prescribed by law, and does not specify the victim is to request to receive notifications). Additionally, adds three rights to the list: (1) the right to reasonable protection from the accused or anyone acting at the direction of the accused, (2) the right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay and a prompt conclusion of the case, and (3) the right to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim's dignity and privacy.
Adds new subsection (1a) permitting the victim, the victim's next of kin, the victim's attorney, or other lawful representative, or the attorney for the government upon request of the victim, to assert and seek enforcement of the rights enumerated in subsection (1) and any other right afforded to the victim by law in any trial or appellate court, or before any other authority, with jurisdiction over the case. Directs the court or other authority to act promptly on a request. Provides that the victim does not have party status, and that the court is not to appoint an attorney for the victim under this subsection. Clarifies that nothing in this subsection alters the powers and responsibilities of the District Attorney.
Adds new subsection (1b) to define victim to include any person directly and proximately harmed by the commission of a felony, sexual offense, domestic criminal trespass, stalking offense, offense involving a violation of a protective order, or any offense in which assault or threats are an element, or a person against whom such an offense is committed. Provides that the term does not include the accused or a person whom the court finds would not act in the best interests of a deceased, incompetent, minor, or incapacitated victim.
Makes conforming changes to subsection (2). Eliminates the provision permitting the General Assembly to provide other remedies to ensure adequate enforcement of the provisions of Section 37. Further, expands the provision clarifying that nothing in Section 37 creates a claim for money damages against the State, a county, a municipality, or any of the agencies, instrumentalities, or employees thereof, to include officers thereof.
If approved, effective January 1, 2019.
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