AUGUSTA, Maine — Action on a broadly supported victims’ bill of rights proposed by Maine Senate President Mike Thibodeau, R-Winterport, will have to wait until next year after a legislative committee voted Monday to delay issuing a recommendation on the proposal.
The bill, known as Marsy’s Law, proposes an amendment to the Maine Constitution to codify some rights that victims already have and to expand others. Among those rights would be for victims to refuse being interviewed by a defense team and for a system of notifications designed to alert victims about hearings, supervision details and release schedules for people accused of committing crimes against them.
However, legislators and representatives of groups that would be affected by the law tallied a list of possible problems and unintended consequences with the bill during public hearings earlier this month. According to Maine Public, some lawmakers voiced concerns that there wouldn’t be enough financial resources allocated to carry out the bill’s intentions.
Others were concerned that extending rights to victims and their families before and while a case moves through the court system could negate one of the tenets of the U.S. legal system: the presumption of innocence until a person is proven guilty.
Law enforcement and attorney groups, as well as the Maine Commission on Domestic and Sexual Abuse, also raised concerns during testimony at a legislative hearing.
The Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee voted Monday to carry the bill over for consideration next year, in the second session of the 128th Legislature.
Thibodeau said he was pleased the committee decided to slow the process.
“Marsy’s Law can be found in 35 other states across our nation and it is important that we take the time to make sure we get it right here in Maine,” he said in a written statement. “By carrying this bill over, interested parties will have the summer to find a version of Marsy’s Law that the Legislature can endorse and send it to the Maine voters for their approval.”
Maine is not the only state considering Marsy’s Law legislation. Marsy’s Law for All is a national organization founded and funded by Henry Nicholas, a billionaire whose sister, Marsy, was killed in 1983.