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Ohio lawmaker pushes to make victims' rights clearer

Published By NBC4i on October 3, 2022
Andrea White In The News

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — In 2017, 83% of Ohioans voted in favor of Marsy’s Law to protect victims’ rights, but now lawmakers are working on a bill to make sure the law is clear across the state.

House Bill 343 was introduced in 2021 and passed through the House with only one vote against it in May; now, the bill awaits hearings and a vote in the Senate.

“This is about helping victims enforce their rights, know their rights, throughout every stage of the criminal justice process,” Rep. Andrea White (R-Kettering) said.

White’s HB 343 was introduced to align all the victim rights laws across the state.

“Not only do crime victims need to be told their rights proactively, but court systems and all the partners in the criminal justice system need to know what those rights are so they can adequately protect them,” White said.

On a Marsy’s Law victim voice page, some victims said they didn’t even get a chance to tell their side of the story when their offenders were being tried. Others said they felt alone in the system.

Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) worked on the bill as a ranking member of the Criminal Justice Committee. In a statement, he said, “Protecting the rights of crime victims is of the highest priority. That’s why House Bill 343 needs to be passed into law, so victims can get the protections and justice they deserve.”

“Whether you live in Cleveland or Columbus or Coshocton, you should be treated fairly and consistently as spelled out in our constitution,” White said.

White said even with HB 343, victims and victims’ loved ones will still have choices.

“Some of these rights are guaranteed to all victims, some are opt-in, if they want to be notified, if they want to have certain provisions, but they have the right to be heard,” White said. “What happens if an arraignment is held, and you’re never given opportunity to speak into the system before bond is set? What happens if a defendant is convicted and you never had an opportunity to talk about the restitution you desired or talk about your side of the story?”

 When the General Assembly goes back into session in November, White said she is ready to hit the ground running and get this bill passed as soon as possible.

“This is a priority bill for the victims of the state,” she said. “It’s a priority bill for legislatures. It’s time to get it done for the victims in this state.”

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