By Steve Haugaard
Mr Haugaard’s views do not necessarily reflect the view of the FHA Board, and we certainly have valued constituents on both sides of this complicated issue.
Constitutional Amendment S is one of 5 Constitutional Amendments on the ballot this November. The significance of a “constitutional amendment” is that it can only be modified by a vote of the people. If there are any issues that arise in regard to the wording of an amendment they cannot be addressed until the next election. And even with that it would require a major advertising campaign to explain why something needed to change.
(This proposed Constitutional Amendment is being paid for by a California billionaire whose sister was a victim. The State’s Attorneys in South Dakota do an excellent job of keeping true victims advised of what is happening with the defendants in their case. There has not been an outcry from South Dakota residents. This is driven by one California man’s agenda.)
The proposed “victim’s rights” measure called “Marsy’s Law” is a three page constitutional amendment containing 19 numbered lines and three ending paragraphs.
There are many variations on the “Victim’s Rights Laws” in other states. The South Dakota proposed constitutional amendment creates many issues of concern, but what I see as the top three highlights are:
1) The last paragraph expands on the definition of a “victim”. That term would include not just the person who is the direct victim of some event, but “The term also includes any spouse, parent, grandparent, child, sibling, grandchild, or guardian, and any person with a relationship to the victim that is substantially similar to a listed relationship……”. That means a “victim” could also be any family member AND any live-in boyfriend / girlfriend, etc, etc….
Other states have a description which is developed by the state legislature and can be modified by the legislature. This one would be set in stone and could only be changed by a vote of the people.
2) Paragraph #6 is also a major problem. It grants the victim a “right to privacy”. The right to privacy is something which does not exist in either the U.S. Constitution or the South Dakota Constitution. Sadly, it is the created “right” that the U.S. Supreme Court used to justify their decision in Roe v. Wade. That paragraph goes on to say that the victim’s right to privacy protects the victim and the victim has “…the right to refuse an interview, deposition or other discovery request,….”. That alone is in direct conflict with the defendant’s right to actually discover what the “victim” is claiming. And, Yes, it is more important that we protect our liberties than to yield to the fear that someone might not be treated with as much respect as we might like.
3) One additional concern is in paragraph #14 which grants the victim the right to “full and timely restitution….”. A very likely unexpected consequence of that “right” is banks and businesses could demand their “rights” as “victims” and put the burden upon the State’s Attorney to collect on certain no account checks or other obligations that might technically fit in the category of a crime. Presently, these are typically handled by the bank or business as a regular civil matter which saves the State’s Attorney from having to become the collection agency for business.
There are many other cumbersome obligations imposed by this Constitutional Amendment, but the fact that it is a Constitutional Amendment with known problems and unknown ramifications is enough to vote “NO” on Amendment S.