A monthly newsletter from OCVJC with the latest information about victims’ rights.
Who can invoke the rights provided by Marsy's Law?
This is a multipart series about Marsy's Law a new victims' rights constitutional amendment that has been in effect for over a year. Our goal is to make Marsy's Law more accessible to victims and advocates.
An individual must meet the definition of “victim” in order to exercise the rights contained in Marsy’s Law. “Victim” is defined as “(1) a person against whom the criminal offense or delinquent act is committed OR (2) [a person] who is directly and proximately harmed by the commission of the offense or act.”
Also, “[t]he term ‘victim’ does not include the accused or a person whom the court finds would not act in the best interests of a deceased, incompetent, minor, or incapacitated victim.”
The first portion of this definition includes the most common understanding of who a “victim” is—the person against whom the criminal offense or delinquent act is committed. For example, in a rape case, the victim would be the person who was raped. In a kidnapping case, the victim would be the person who was kidnapped. Typically, the person against whom the criminal offense or delinquent act was committed will be identified as the victim in a police report.
In Ohio, “persons” may include businesses and other legal entities. Pending legislation, if passed, would provide businesses and other legal entities the opportunity to execute a blanket waiver of Marsy’s Law rights for a specific period of time, as determined by that business or entity. Some businesses, such as big-box retailers that experience high rates of petty theft, do not wish to exercise Marsy’s Law rights and have indicated a desire to execute such a waiver.
What does “direct and proximate harm” mean?
Persons who are directly and proximately harmed by the criminal offense or delinquent act are also “victims” under Marsy’s Law. The concept of direct and proximate harm giving rise to liability is a concept originating in tort law. Per legal dictionaries, direct and proximate harm “must have caused the damages, without the intervention of another party, and cannot be remote in time or place.” Essentially, in tort law, a defendant is liable for persons directly and proximately harmed by the defendant’s tortious conduct if the harm is foreseeable to the defendant.
Examples of persons who are directly and proximately harmed as the result of criminal conduct include, but are not limited to: 1) parents of child sexual assault victims; 2) surviving family members of homicide victims; and 3) children who witness domestic violence incidents. These persons would be “victims” per Marsy’s Law as they are directly and proximately harmed by the criminal offense or delinquent act and their harm is foreseeable to the criminal defendant who caused it. In the future, implementing legislation will provide additional guidance on who is considered a victim.
You can learn more about Marsy's Law in our FAQ section.
If you have a Marsy's Law question, email us at email@example.com.
Welcome Alexandra Fehder
Alex Fehder is a Victims’ Rights Advocate at Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center. Alex graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice with minors in Spanish and Homeland Security. She then earned her Master’s in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. Her passion for helping victims flourished during her undergraduate studies when she had the opportunity to work for Hope’s Wings Domestic Violence Shelter, Catholic Charities’ Human Trafficking Department, and SHINE (Stop Human Injustice, eNslavement, & Exploitation). She has also had the privilege of working as a Crisis Intervention Specialist at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. Alex joined OCVJC with the passion to help victims have their voices be heard throughout the criminal justice process.