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Constitutional Amendment for Crime Victims
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The Constitutional Amendment

The New Jersey State Constitution includes guaranteed rights for crime victims. Article I, paragraph 22 reads:

A victim of crime shall be treated with fairness, compassion and respect by the criminal justice system. A victim of a crime shall not be denied the right to be present at public judicial proceeding except when, prior to completing testimony as a witness, the victim is properly sequestered in accordance with law or the Rule Governing the Courts of the State of New Jersey. A victim of a crime shall be entitled to those rights and remedies as may be provided by the Legislature.

The rights of defendants in our criminal justice system were written into the Constitution of the United States at the time it was created. Rights for victims on the other hand only became part of the NJ Constitution in 1991.


The constitutional amendment provides that a victim of crime is entitled to be treated with fairness, compassion and respect by the criminal justice system, and to such other substantive or procedural rights as may be provided by statute. It entitles a victim to be present at public judicial hearings when not sequestered. Although this amendment is not intended in any way to deny or infringe upon the constitutional rights of any person accused of a crime, it is designed to place victims on an equal footing by guaranteeing certain fundamental rights as a matter of State constitutional imperative.

This provision would ensure, for example, that no victim could be prevented from attending a public trial or other public judicial proceeding unless he or she were subject to being called or recalled as a witness at the proceeding. In other words, a court could only "sequester" a victim prior to the victim completing his or her testimony as a witness. If a victim is not a witness, or once any testimony has been given and the victim is no longer subject to being recalled as a witness, he or she could not thereafter be denied the right to attend the public judicial proceeding, unless, of course, the person's conduct was so disruptive as to warrant exclusion on the grounds of contempt of court. This provision is intended to preclude the abuse by defense counsel of the witness sequestration practice. It is also intended that the right established in this amendment to be present at public judicial proceedings necessarily includes the right to be notified of such proceedings, as is required under current law.

This constitutional amendment defines a "victim of a crime" to mean any person who has suffered physical or psychological injury, or has incurred loss or damage to property, as a result of the commission of a crime or a motor vehicle incident in which another person was driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The definition of a victim for the purposes of this constitutional amendment includes the surviving spouse, parent, legal guardian, grandparent, child or sibling of the victim of a criminal homicide. Nothing in this constitutional amendment is intended to preclude the Legislature from extending similar rights to the next of kin of persons incapacitated as the result of a crime.

This constitutional amendment would authorize the Legislature to provide by statute for any appropriate remedies. Consequently, although this amendment establishes certain constitutional rights, and authorizes the Legislature to enlarge upon those rights, this provision is not intended and does not establish any cause of action for monetary damages. Rather, it is intended that any such cause of action could only be sustained if specifically authorized by a statute.

This constitutional amendment is supported by both a Crime Victims Bill of Rights and a Drunk Driving Victims Bill of Rights.

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State Office of Victim-Witness Advocacy
NJ Division of Criminal Justice
P.O. Box 085
Trenton, New Jersey 08625
(609) 588-7900


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