SIOUX FALLS (AP) – A South Dakota constitutional amendment that passed last November to provide new protections to crime victims has created conflicts for defense attorneys, law enforcement and county officials.
The statute, named Marsy’s Law, has led to several changes in the criminal justice system, including revising the process to release accident reports, which has increased responsibilities for law enforcement officers, the Argus Leader reported.
The South Dakota Department of Public Safety now holds accident reports for three days as a waiting period devised to allow victims to opt in to the new law’s privacy protections. The agency also reviews all reports for any Marsy’s Law implications and vets every case where a victim asks for their information to not be released.
“What used to be extremely efficient and hands-off by the bureaucracy is now very fact- and labor-intensive,” said Jenna Howell, director of the Division of Legal and Regulatory Services.
Out of 16,000 accident reports, a victim has invoked their rights to privacy in less than 10 of the reports, said agency spokesperson Tony Mangan.
The law also requires law enforcement officers to inform victims of their 19 protections. Attorney General Marty Jackley’s office printed cards listing those protections that officers can give to victims.
Officers must also inform victims of the state’s automated victim notification system, which provides updates on court dates, hearings and releases over text, email or phone.
Defense lawyers argued that the additional hurdles of victim notification can cause avoidable jail time for their clients. Prosecutors have delayed bond hearings and plea deals by citing victim notification, said Minnehaha County Public Defender Traci Smith.
Smith said a clause intended to protect victims from harassment can stand in the way of defense attorneys’ duty to contact victims on their clients’ behalf. Smith said a victim’s constitutional rights are usurping her clients’ constitutional rights.
Experts expect legal fights over the issues.