Victims’ Rights Amendment to N.C. Constitution Advances to Ballot

Raleigh, N.C. – The state House of Representatives gave final legislative approval to a proposed constitutional amendment Tuesday that if approved by voters this fall, would expand the rights of victims of crime and their families in the North Carolina justice system. 

House Bill 551 Strengthening Victims’ Rights was approved by a bipartisan 107-9 concurrence vote and is sponsored by Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake), Rep. Rena Turner (R-Iredell), Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell), and Rep. Beverly Earle (D-Mecklenburg).

H.B. 511 would amend the state constitution and expand the offenses that trigger victims’ rights to include crimes against the person, felony property crimes, delinquent acts against the person, and delinquent acts equivalent to felony property crimes.

If approved by voters, it would guarantee victims the right to receive timely notice of court proceedings and to be heard at plea, conviction, sentencing, or adjudication hearings.

Rep. Dollar said the proposed amendment modernizes the state’s constitutional language, clarifies the responsibilities of justice system officials, and strengthens key elements with regard to victims’ rights in North Carolina:

“The core of this constitutional amendment is to strengthen the rights of victims in our criminal justice system,” said Rep. Dollar, a primary sponsor of the proposal. 

“I am pleased that today we stood together with members of both sides of the aisle to protect our citizens and families who have been the victims of crime.”

The proposal further creates an enforcement mechanism for victims to file motions with the court if deprived of their rights.  The General Assembly would define the procedure for a victim to assert the rights afforded and provide opportunities for district attorneys to resolve any alleged violations.

“Victims deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” said Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell).

“What can be more fundamental of a right for a victim, but to be present, and get to participate, in the proceedings?  That right can’t be taken away from them under this provision.”

“This makes it clear the policy of this state is we are going to stand up for the rights of victims, that they do have rights under the state constitution.”

H.B. 551 would guarantee victims of crime the rights to be treated with dignity and respect, to be present at any proceeding, to be reasonably heard at certain proceedings, restitution in a reasonably timely manner, information, upon request, and to reasonably confer with the prosecutor.

Current Law

In 1996, a victims’ rights amendment was added to the Constitution of North Carolina affording some crime victims basic rights to participate in the justice system.

Section 37 of the North Carolina Constitution guarantees victims of crime the rights to be informed of and present as proceedings related to the accused, to be heard at proceedings that implicate a victim’s rights, to receive restitution, to receive information regarding the justice system, to be informed about the final disposition of the case, to be informed of an escape, release, pardon, or commutation, to express views to the Governor or appropriate agency consideration release, and to confer with prosecution.

H.B. 511 further advances those rights.

North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 15A Article 46 is the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.  The Act currently only applies to victims of specific charged offenses: any Class A, B1, B2, C, D, or E felony; certain Class G, H, and I felonies, a small number of violent misdemeanors, and any violations of a valid Domestic Violence Protection Order.

H.B. 511 expands the offenses that trigger victims’ rights.