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Marsy's Cards among first steps in new victim rights law in ND

FARGO--The most tangible sign here of the new North Dakota constitutional amendment known as Marsy's Law is a simple white business card handed out to crime victims.

Crime victims get a card like this after meeting with a Fargo police officer, one of the most tangible results of the new Marsy's Law. Special to The Forum
Crime victims get a card like this after meeting with a Fargo police officer, one of the most tangible results of the new Marsy's Law. Special to The Forum

FARGO-The most tangible sign here of the new North Dakota constitutional amendment known as Marsy's Law is a simple white business card handed out to crime victims.

In Fargo, the Marsy's card, distributed since Dec. 8 when the law took effect, directs victims to either the Fargo Police Department's or Cass County State's Attorney's website, where they can read the law in detail and learn more about their rights. Other law enforcement agencies and county prosecutor offices across the state are doing the same.

Sgt. Tom Morris said Fargo officers have heard mixed reactions from crime victims about the law passed by North Dakota voters in November. It spells out 19 different and specific victim rights, including the right to be notified of court proceedings, offender releases or escapes and parole and probation proceedings.

"Some say 'Yeah, I want to invoke my Marsy's Law rights,'" Morris said, while others say they're OK with waiving those rights.

Tristan Van de Streek, an assistant state's attorney in Cass County, said it hasn't yet brought big changes for them, because the office was doing 95 percent of those things before.

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However, he said it's hard to know the full impact because no one has yet challenged the county on how it's implementing Marsy's Law.

"We're doing our best to comply," Van de Streek said.

One immediate change, he said, is that the county now calls victims to notify them of a defendant's first appearance in court-after charges are filed, but before the defendant is arrested.

The county also signs up victims in SAVIN, the North Dakota Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification system, which sends automated notices via email or text of a defendant's court proceedings or their whereabouts.

Previously, the county only informed victims about the system and how to use it.

Van de Streek said the county also follows up with letters in the mail.

He said the impact of complying with Marsy's Law could be greater on smaller counties that have fewer resources. But with three full-time victim/witness coordinators on staff, Cass County is managing.

"We're trying to get a sense of where we are," Van de Streek said. "If what we're doing is taking too much time, we might have to pare back a little."

Related Topics: CASS COUNTYCRIME
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