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Victim rights constitutional amendment depends on SAVIN technology to work

PIERRE—The leader of a petition drive to put a victim rights amendment in the South Dakota Constitution faced a mix of skepticism and support Monday during a presentation to members of the governor's special panel studying child sexual abuse.

The Jolene's Law Task Force hosted Jason Glodt, a Pierre lawyer who is a longtime political advisor and Republican activist.

Glodt said the proposed amendment, known as Marsy's Law from its start in California, generally fits with the task force's work but isn't a precise match.

He said 32 states have victim rights provisions in their constitution and South Dakota is among seven more states where efforts are underway.

The amendment, which he's trying to get on the 2016 general election ballot, would guarantee victims have a right to be heard at every step of the criminal process, he said, and would put victims at the front of the line for restitution before court fees.

Glodt faces a Nov. 9 deadline to submit a minimum of 27,741 valid signatures of registered South Dakota voters. He said his group plans to file in the near future.

Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron, asked how a victim would proceed if the rights guaranteed in the amendment weren't upheld. She asked what the follow-through and penalties would be.

Glodt said the victim could sue the government and the judge. "This makes those rights enforceable. It really gives victims a hammer to have their rights enforced," he said.

Gibson asked about penalties. Glodt said there wouldn't be any punishment, financially or otherwise. But a plea agreement, for example, could be overturned if the victim wasn't provided a chance to know about it and comment on it, he said.

"It simply guarantees a voice and a right to be heard," Glodt said.

Daniele Dosch, a victim specialist for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Rapid City, said the federal system for notifying victims is "very slow." She told Glodt she supported his effort.

"There is such a need for this," Dosch said.

Wendy Kloeppner, the Hughes County state's attorney, asked Glodt whether the victim rights amendment would create an adversarial relationship between a victim and a prosecutor. Glodt said "the exact opposite" is the goal.

Glodt said the victim notification would hinge on South Dakota's new SAVIN system that was approved by the Legislature two years ago. SAVIN stands for Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification.

South Dakota is among the handful of states where SAVIN isn't functioning yet.

Law enforcement would be given the responsibility to distribute a notification card to victims explaining their rights, Glodt said.

The card also would show the SAVIN system contact protocol.

Kloeppner said she has worked in three prosecutor offices in Butte, Meade and Hughes counties. In Belle Fourche, she didn't have staff able to work directly with victims and she didn't have time to meet with every victim.

"We did the best job we could," she said.

Now, in Hughes County, she has a victim rights person on her staff. Kloeppner asked whether there is a proposal to help in those counties where the state's attorneys don't have the staff and time.

Glodt said, "In answer to your question, the SAVIN system is the solution."

He said Minnehaha County has two full-time victim assistants and sought a third. He said SAVIN would streamline the system and reduce workloads. He later added that the victim rights amendment wouldn't be possible with SAVIN.

SAVIN is the responsibility of state Attorney General Marty Jackley to start and manage. Gibson asked Glodt whether the attorney general is on board with the proposed amendment.

"Good question. I believe he will be a strong supporter. I can't speak for him at this time," Glodt responded.

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