House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment HC0001

Proposed by Representative Lou Lang

Text: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/98/HJRCA/09800HC0001.htm
Current amendment (s 8.1): http://www.ilga.gov/commission/lrb/con1.htm

Even past the final stroke of a gavel, some cases are never truly closed—crimes such as drunk driving often cause earth-shattering changes in victims’ lives. The revisions in this proposal remind courts of their responsibility to ensure that all proceedings take into account their effect on the victim’s ability to peacefully conclude this tragic chapter of their lives.

Particularly in drunk-driving cases, one of the earliest and most vital of these decisions is whether (and for how much) a defendant can post bail. Under the proposed amendment, judges must consider the safety of the victim and the victim’s family in making this determination. This protection also sets conditions of eventual release upon conviction. As it stands, judges aren’t required to take into account such vital factors, all of which affect how soundly victims can continue their lives without being haunted by the past.

Other revisions include:

  • In addition to the fair treatment guaranteed under current law, victims will now be entitled to freedom from harassment, intimidation, and abuse throughout the judicial process.
  • Victims may refuse to disclose legally confidential information to the defendant
  • Courts will be required to provide—not merely make available—information on all proceedings in a timely manner
  • Victims will receive access to reports related to a defendant’s sentence, providing them with equal access to the reasoning behind a judge’s decision.

Under the current constitution, victims have the right to “communicate with the prosecution.” This proposal supersedes “communicate” with “confer”—empowering victims to voice their opinions and ideas as people rather than paperwork. In addition, whereas victims currently have the right to make a statement at sentencing, this proposal grants them a voice at other proceedings that may require a judge’s informed and empathetic decision, such as release or plea hearings.