Idaho House Committee Advances Victims' Rights Amendment

Feb 28, 2018

An Idaho House panel has advanced a proposed amendment to the state's constitution to expand the rights of crime victims and their families.

The House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday approved sending the proposal to the House floor.

The proposal would change Idaho's 1994 Victim Rights Amendment by requiring victims to be notified in a timely manner of all court proceedings involving suspects, as well as allowing victims be heard at each step of the legal process.

“My experience in the justice system taught me that it’s important for victims to have a voice during a dark time in their life,” says Lauren Busdon, a victim of rape and sexual assault who is now a student at the University of Idaho.

In past media interviews, Budson has said she felt treated unequally in court compared to her rapist because she wasn’t given as many opportunities to testify and was not being notified of upcoming hearings.

Opponents like Tom Arkoosh from the Idaho Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, though, say victims already have significant protections under state law.

A state fiscal analysis estimates the proposal could cost cities and counties more than $550,000 every year.

“It looks to us as this is not budgeted for, it’s not needed. It will be an unfunded mandate. It’s going to interrupt our trials,” Arkoosh said.

A similar proposal failed to clear the same House panel last year after lawmakers raised concerns about the bill's backers and appropriateness of tweaking Idaho's constitution.

The amendment, called Marsy's Law for Idaho, is named for a California woman killed in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend after he was released from jail without her being notified.

A constitutional amendment requires two-thirds support from the House and Senate, as well as a simple majority from voters in the November general election, which would cost taxpayers about $200,000.