Victim Rights in Wisconsin

by David Patton on Apr. 05, 2021

Criminal Criminal  Felony Criminal  White Collar Crime 

Summary: In 2020, Marsy's Law was ratified into the Wisconsin constitution. Marsy's law guarantees victims of crime equal right to those accused of crimes. But what does that really mean?


Victim Rights in Wisconsin

By David Patton

In 2020, Marsy's Law was ratified into the Wisconsin constitution. Marsy's law guarantees victims of crime equal right to those accused of crimes. But what does that really mean?

Who is Marsy?

On November 30, 1983, that Marsalee (Marsy) Ann Nicholas was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend. She was only 21 years old.

Only a week after her murder, Marsy’s family stopped at a market to pick up a loaf of bread on the way home from the funeral service. there, in the checkout line, Marsy’s mother, Marcella, was confronted by her daughter’s murderer. She had received no notification from the judicial system that he had been released on bail just days after Marsy’s murder. So they could not have been prepared to see him there in that grocery line. From there, it took two years for Marsy’s murderer to be convicted.  

If you are the victim of a crime, you deserve better.

Who is a victim?

 Under Marsy’s Law, a victim is anyone against whom an act that would be a crime if charged was committed. This can be a real person like you or me or a legal person like a corporation or business. In cases like Resisting a Officer, the law enforcement agent can be considered a victim. Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, YOU HAVE CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS.

If the actual victim can’t act for themselves, the victim is whoever has the legal right to act on their behalf – e.g. spouse, parents, sibling, legal guardian, even in some cases a live-in partner. Of course, if one of those people is the accused, they can’t also act as the victim. For instance, in a child abuse case, the parent accused of abuse can’t act as the victim for the child.

Especially important is that your attorney can act in your place to enforce your rights as a victim. By hiring an attorney, you can ensure that your rights are enforced. Through your attorney, you can actually go to Court to force the PD or DA or whoever else to enforce your rights. The Court can craft an appropriate remedy for any violations.

When do the rights kick in?

At the time of the victimization. You don’t have to wait for a crime to be charged by the District Attorney to begin exercising your right.

Does this mean the victim is now a party in a criminal case?

No, the parties in a criminal case are the accused and the State. Marsy’s doesn’t treat victims as actual parties.

What rights does a victim have?

You have the right to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect for your privacy. Sometimes when your opinion about what should happen differs from the law enforcement view of the case, they will stop treating you like a victim and start treating you like a nuisance. That’s not OK.

Criminal cases can take a long time, but you are still entitled to closure. That means a right to a timely disposition of criminal cases.

You can attend all court proceeding (except in the rare circumstance where a court finds that your presence would preclude a fair trial)

You have a right to be safe. The state must act to protect from the alleged criminal. This might mean a no-contact order or even actual physical protection, depending on the case.

You have an absolute right to know what is going on. That means the Court has to keep you notified of court hearings.

You have the right to confer with the prosecutor of the case, meaning they have to take your calls and listen to your input. If you have an attorney, your attorney can talk to the District Attorney for you.

You have right to speak at dispositions and sentencings. You get to provide a victim impact statement and to tell the Court what you think should happen. Of course, the Court doesn’t have to follow your wishes, but they absolutely have to hear them.

If you suffered a loss, you have a right to restitution and compensation. This is another place where an attorney can really help you. By helping you to figure out what all of your losses are (medical bills, lost time at work, destroyed property, etc.) your attorney can help to ensure that you are made whole. Even if the accused goes to prison, you still suffered a loss due to the incident and them being in prison doesn’t fix it. Restitution can go a long way toward making it right.

Plus, you have a right to be informed of the outcome of the proceedings. I was the victim of a crime in another state. I was assaulted in my own house. The police came by and took the evidence. A detective called and took a statement. He told me they knew who’d done it and they were looking for him. And that’s it.

To this day, I don’t know the name of the person that attacked me. I don’t know whether he was caught or prosecuted. As far as I know, he’s still running the streets and for two years after the incident, he knew where I lived. That’s not OK. You should not have to live with that uncertainty.

In addition, the State must inform you of the release of the alleged criminal. If they are back on the street, you want to know. You may need to take steps to protect yourself or your property.

Does a crime Victim need an attorney?

A victim of a crime is not required to have an attorney. The prosecutor’s job is to get a conviction. They are zealous (even over-zealous) in that regard. However although the District Attorney's and police know about victim rights, they are frankly more concerned with getting a prosecution than with keeping the victims informed.

Having your own attorney who is working on your behalf or on behalf of your loved one, ensures that your rights in the case are protected. Of course, we can’t make any promises as to outcome, but sometimes, by helping you with restitution, your representation will practically pay for itself. 

Perhaps most important, your attorney’s job is to make sure you understand what is happening every step of the way. Criminal proceedings are confusing. You deserve someone who will take the time to make sure you understand everything. We can also ensure that you get the services you need, whether that’s therapy or a new car window.


 Call us at 262.221.4848 or contact us online to schedule an initial strategy session.

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