LANSING, Mich.— Crime victims’ rights would be strengthened in Michigan under legislation passed by the state Senate on Thursday with strong bipartisan support, announced state Sen. Mike Green. The bill expands the focus of the William Van Regenmorter Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 1985.
Introduced by Green Senate Bill 1211 would strengthen the rights of crime victims by allowing them to present exhibits when testifying at parole or commutation hearings in order to more effectively portray the impact of the crime on their lives. Victims whose cases are dropped by prosecutors as part of a plea deal would also be granted victim status before parole boards.
In addition to current parole hearing notifications, the bill would further require that victims be notified when a prisoner has applied for reprieve, commutation or pardon; when the prisoner has absconded while on bail or other release; or has died while in custody. Perhaps the most significant change is that notifications regarding escapes and absconding would have to take place within 24 hours. Current state law does not provide for a specific timeframe for notifying the victims.
Green, R-Mayville, said the legislation was inspired by the personal story of a resident in his district who was savagely attacked at a gas station by her estranged husband several years ago. Although the attacker was convicted and imprisoned, the victim and her family struggled to get information from state agencies on his later applications for medical commutation and his rumored passing.
“Innocent victims should have access to the status of their attacker’s incarceration, period. Through this legislation, they will be empowered with more tools and information to benefit their personal security and daily peace of mind,” said Green. “This measure builds upon Michigan’s legacy as a leader in crime victims’ rights by making them even stronger.”
Attorney General Bill Schuette proposed the changes as part of the comprehensive public safety plan he unveiled earlier this year.
“If a crime victim’s perpetrator is on the run from authorities, they have the right to know so they can plan for their own safety,” said Schuette. “If their perpetrator dies, they deserve to know so they can sleep more soundly at night. Thank you to Sen. Green and his colleagues in the Senate for advancing this important measure to defend crime victims’ rights.”
In 1985, the state of Michigan led the nation by enacting the William Van Regenmorter Crime Victims’ Rights Act for victims of crime and juvenile offenses. The law was named after its sponsor, a longtime legislator and champion of crime victims’ rights. In 1988, Michigan voters also approved adding crime victims’ rights language to the state constitution.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.