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Reject CACR 22: The wrong way to help victims

April 25. 2018 6:10PM

Let us leave aside the distasteful way that out-of-state interests are trying to paste their preferred language into the New Hampshire Constitution, and examine the many problems with the language of the amendment itself.

CACR 22, scheduled for debate on the floor of the New Hampshire House on Thursday, would codify victims’ rights. It is simultaneously too vague and too specific.

The amendment states that a victim of a crime has the right “to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy.” What does that mean? It doesn’t say. That would be left for judges to figure out in court cases to come.

The amendment also includes very specific requirements for court procedures better left to statute. Yet is contains no provisions to enforce these rights, or any consequences if police or courts fail to provide them.

The amendment also presumes someone to be a victim before a court has determined that a crime has occurred. Such presumption runs counter to centuries of American legal tradition.

New Hampshire already protects the rights of crime victims in statute. Of course, no law is ever perfectly followed. Bureaucracies can treat people badly. Procedures are sometimes ignored. Passing a constitutional amendment will not change this.

Rather than protecting victims, CACR 22 would create new complications in bringing criminals to justice. It should be rejected.

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