Voters Approve Enforceable Victims' Rights



May 20, 2008

Today the voters of Oregon approved a major advance in the rights of Oregon crime victims. By overwhelming margins (75 percent in favor), voters approved Measures 51 and 52. These measures amended the Oregon Constitution to allow victims to appeal to higher courts when they believe their constitutional rights have been abridged.

The long fight for victims' rights in Oregon began in 1983 when members of Crime Victims United personally collected tens of thousands of signatures to put Measure 8 on the ballot. Measure 8 was narrowly defeated. Undaunted, members again personally collected tens of thousands of signatures in 1986 and put Measure 10 on the ballot. Measure 10 passed and added crime victims' rights to statutory (as opposed to constitutional) law.

Because defendants' rights were enshrined in the Oregon Constitution and because some courts did not respect the statutory rights provided by Measure 10, efforts continued to put victims' rights in the constitution. In 1996, voters passed Measure 40 which put victims' rights in in the Oregon Constitution.

In 1998 the Oregon Supreme Court overturned Measure 40 on the grounds that it amended more than one part of the constitution. Crime Victims United and other advocates went back to work and convinced the Oregon Legislature to refer seven parts of Measure 40 separately to the voters in 1999 as Measures 69 through 75. Measure 69 contained most of the victims' rights including the right to be informed of hearings, to be consulted regarding plea negotiations, to be present in court and to be heard at sentencing. Measure 71 added the right to be reasonably protected from the defendant. Measures 69, 71, 74 and 75 were approved by the voters. Victims' rights were once again in the Oregon Constitution.

But the rights were unenforceable. In order to gain enough support to get the legislature to refer the measures to the ballot, Crime Victims United and other advocates had to compromise on an important point. There was concern that assertion of victims' rights would disrupt the criminal justice process. To preclude that, Measure 69 included this provision:

Nothing in this section is intended to create any cause of action for compensation or damages nor may this section be used to invalidate an accusatory instrument, ruling of a court, conviction or adjudication or otherwise suspend or terminate any criminal or juvenile delinquency proceedings at any point after the case is commenced or on appeal.

In the ensuing years, many states enacted constitutional rights without this restriction and it was clear that enforceable victims' rights did not significantly impede the criminal justice process. A group was formed including Crime Victims United, the National Crime Victims Law Institute, and the Oregon Attorney General, to investigate the idea of a new ballot measure to remove the restriction on allowing victims to seek redress through higher courts when they believe that a lower court has abridged their rights. During this process, it became clear that not one but two measures would be needed to amend sections 42 and 43 of Article I of the constitution which corresponded to Measures 69 and 71.

Two bills were offered to the 2007 Oregon Legislature, House Joint Resolution 49 and House Joint Resolution 50, both sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee at the request of Attorney General Hardy Myers and Steve Doell for Crime Victims United. Both bills were passed by unanimous votes of the Oregon House and Senate, thereby referring the matter to the voters in the form of Measures 51 and 52.

Measures 51 and 52 appeared on the ballot for the 2008 May primary election. There was no opposition to them. They both passed by margins of 3-to-1, finally enshrining in the Oregon Constitution enforceable crime victims' rights.

The passage of Measures 51 and 52 was the culmination of decades of work by people too numerous to list, but a few stand out for their extensive efforts on these measures:

Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers

Deputy Attorney General Pete Shepherd

Connie Gallagher, Oregon Crime Victims Section Administrator (retired)

Doug Beloof, Director of the National Crime Victim Law Institute

Crime Victims United President Steve Doell

Steve Twist, former Arizona Deputy Attorney General

John Stein, International Organization for Victims Assitance

They join the many other pioneers of crime victims' rights in Oregon who built on the years of hard work of Crime Victims United founders Bob and Dee Dee Kouns.

Voter Pamphlet Argument in Favor of Enforceable Victims' Rights

Crime Victims United, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Parents of Murdered Children urge you to VOTE YES on Ballot Measures 51 and 52.

We ask you to help us complete a 25-year quest for crime victims' rights:

The right to be reasonably protected from the defendant

The right to refuse to be interviewed by the defendant's investigator or lawyer

The right to be informed of hearings

The right to be consulted regarding plea negotiations

The right to be present in court

The right to be heard at sentencing

The right to obtain information about the offender's criminal history

The right to prompt restitution

From the state's establishment through the early 1980's, crime victims in Oregon had no rights in statutory law or in the Oregon Constitution. In 1986 the voters of Oregon established crime victims' rights in statutory law. In 1999 voters established crime victims' rights in the Oregon Constitution.

But in 2008, crime victims in Oregon still do not have standing to appeal when their rights are violated.

Measures 51 and 52 will give crime victims enforceable rights.

Crime Victims United, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Parents of Murdered Children have seen the difficulties crime victims face in the criminal justice system. We strongly support these measures.

Measures 51 and 52 received unanimous support from the Oregon House and Senate. They have the support of law enforcement.

Now we ask for your support, through your vote, to make crime victims' rights enforceable.

Please join Crime Victims United, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Parents of Murdered Children, by voting:

YES on Measures 51 and 52