Idaho House Rejects Victims Rights Constitutional Amendment

Mar 5, 2018

State Representatives fell five votes shy of expanding the rights of crime victims in the Idaho Constitution Monday.

The hodgepodge of Democrats and Republicans who voted against the amendment say they don’t disagree that Idaho could do more to help crime victims.

They just don’t want to amend the constitution to do it.

“It could backfire badly and we should find that out in statute than in the constitution,” says state Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise).

She and others say any kinks that could have come out of this measure could be worked out in state code much more easily.

One of those kinks, according to Rep. Fred Wood (R-Burley), could include defining a victim in the Idaho Constitution. He says that could exclude some people from any new laws that may be enacted.

“That’s something that we should keep for ourselves in this body. The people elected us to do this. We shouldn’t give that up and handcuff ourselves in the Constitution to do this,” Wood said.

The proposal known as Marsy’s Law would have alerted victims of all court hearings involving the accused and would have let them testify throughout the legal process. That would have included appeals and pardon proceedings.

Restitution also would have been required to be paid in full on a timely basis, under the proposal.

Rep. Patrick McDonald (R-Boise), a former state trooper, backed the amendment, saying the criminal justice system invests far more attention and money into a defendant.

“The victim has to have some standing here – just like the perpetrator – and at least [be] protected and given the chance to recoup some of the damage that’s done,” McDonald said.

A similar proposal failed in committee last year. The organization behind the amendment says it will continue to advocate for these changes in the future.

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