Letter: Attorney ask voters to vote ‘no’ on victims’ rights constitutional amendment

To the editor:

I have been a prosecutor for more than 20 years. I am an advocate for victims and victims’ rights, but I encourage you to vote no on the victims’ rights amendment on the ballot. Here is why.

1. These rights already exist under Kentucky Law. The Kentucky Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights (KRS 421.500) arguably provides more rights than the amendment. Notice to victims was a problem two decades ago in California where this movement started. Since then, Kentucky has implemented VINE (Victim Information Notification Everyday) so that crime victims can be aware of what is happening in a criminal case. The amendment is not necessary. What was good for California decades ago is no reason to amend Kentucky’s Constitution.

2. It is a solution looking for a problem. What problem is trying to be fixed?

3. It will run afoul of existing Constitutional rights such as the presumption of innocence and the right to bail. This amendment may turn self-defense on its head. Who is the victim in a self-defense case anyway? Under the amendment, the accused shall not have standing to assert the rights of a victim.

4. The Amendment does nothing to address things that frustrate victims most, such as:

  • Cases that drag on forever;
  • A catch & release system where criminals get out on probation and parole;
  • A lack of truth in sentencing for misdemeanor offenses;
  • No funding for alternatives to incarceration or drug treatment;
  • No funding for any way to implement or enforce these rights.

5. Victims will be disappointed. The amendment gives the impression there will be sweeping changes to the criminal justice system. There won’t be. The amendment will cause the police, prosecutors and the courts to shuffle papers instead of working on cases. This amendment will further delay prosecutions while certain politicians thump their chests about what a great job they did to help victims. If the legislature really wants to help victims, it should fund a crime victim’s advocate in every county in the state.

Victims deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The concept behind this amendment is admirable, but amending Kentucky’s Constitution in this way is not the answer.

My hat is off to our elected officials — State Rep. Chad McCoy and Sen. Jimmy Higdon — and the other legislators who had the courage to vote against this amendment when it was before the Kentucky General Assembly. I encourage you to vote against it as well.

Matthew Hite
Nelson County

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