South Dakota lawmaker works to repeal Marsy's Law

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Representative Mark Mickelson wants to repeal Marsy's Law, the constitutional amendment outlining victim's rights.
Voters approved it just last year, but Mickelson hopes to bring a new measure to the 2018 legislative session that would repeal it and create a new law that would contain most of the provisions found in Marsy’s Law, with some adjustments.
Mickelson says he likes the idea of Marsy's Law, but the specific set of rules it lays out should have never been passed as a constitutional amendment. He says it also had unintended financial consequences.
The amendment establishes a victim notification system that is costing the state upwards of $5 million.
“The concepts behind Marsy’ Law are unobjectionable,” Mickelson said.

Mickleson wants to keep most of Marsy's Law intact, but he says one area of the constitutional amendment needs some clarification.

“There are some details within Marsy’s Law which addresses victims’ rights and the obligations of criminal proceedings to provide them notification, and the details are what's created the confusion,” he said.

Many counties are interpreting that to mean every time a defendant appears in court, the victim and their families have to be notified, and counties have to foot the bill.
That price tag in Minnehaha County is $185,000.

“When it did happen Minnehaha County had to hire three additional witness protection people for our office,” Commissioner Cindy Heiberger said.

So, Mickelson wants to clear that up, creating an ‘opt in’ notification system, meaning victims would have to ask to be notified.

“And the other ambiguity is Marsy’s Law applies to the victim and all family members, kids, brothers, sisters, parents, and we think it would make more sense for it to apply to the victim or their appointed representative,” Mickelson said.

Even though voters approved Marsy’s Law, Mickelson says he thinks people will get behind this plan.

“I think most voters would appreciate preserve the intent of Marsy’s Law, but make it a little bit clearer so that it still does what it was supposed to do, but isn't costing the counties money they don't have, for a purpose they probably they don't need to be doing,” he said.

“I’m in support of that if that's what that does. I was out there in the beginning trying to educate people about what Marsy’s Law was going to do to the State of South Dakota in additional costs,” Heiberger said.

Mickelson says the ‘opt in’ feature wouldn’t just be for notification of court appearances, it would be for all their rights outlined in the law. Law enforcement officials would provide victims with a Marsy’s Card and it would be up to the individual to use the protections. It would no longer go into effect automatically.
Mickelson says this plan is still in its early stages.
He is currently circulating drafts to law enforcement agencies.

KSFY News reached out to representatives from the national Marsy's Law campaign, but the representative did not respond for our request for comment.