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Stenehjem: Victim addresses protected by Marsy's Law

BISMARCK--The North Dakota attorney general said Friday, Dec. 30 that public entities should not reveal crime victims' addresses if they have asserted their rights under the newly passed constitutional provision known as Marsy's Law.

BISMARCK-The North Dakota attorney general said Friday, Dec. 30 that public entities should not reveal crime victims' addresses if they have asserted their rights under the newly passed constitutional provision known as Marsy's Law.

In an opinion released Friday afternoon, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said while a victim's specific address is protected, Marsy's Law doesn't prevent law enforcement from releasing "general location information about criminal activity for purposes of public safety."

"If the street address where a crime occurred is the address of a victim or victim's family, and (the) victim has asserted his or her rights under Marsy's Law, the public entity should not reveal the address," the opinion states.

But Stenehjem's opinion said Marsy's Law doesn't specifically prevent the disclosure of adult victims' names, arguing it couldn't "be read so broadly that it unreasonably restricts North Dakota's constitutional provision that requires open records."

Marsy's Law passed in November with 62 percent of North Dakota voters backing it. One of the rights it provides to crime victims is to "prevent the disclosure of information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim's family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information about the victim, and to be notified of any request for such information or records," according to Stenehjem's opinion, which was requested by Rep. George Keiser, R-Bismarck.

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Stenehjem also said the release of motor vehicle accident reports and the exchange of information at the scene of an accident are meant to help resolve liability claims and "cannot reasonably be construed as a means to harass a victim." But "for records released to the general public, location and contact information may be protected if the victim invokes Marsy's Law."

Stenehjem said it's "reasonable to conclude that a victim would need to affirmatively assert his or her right to prevent the disclosure of the records or information." He added that a public entity must cite a specific law that makes a record or information "confidential" or "privileged" to prevent disclosure.

Stenehjem's opinion predicted many more questions will arise over Marsy's Law, and potential issues will need to be addressed by the Legislature, the courts and his office on a case-by-case basis.

Related Topics: WAYNE STENEHJEM
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