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Jackley: State, local agencies may release names of crash victims

PIERRE — State and local law enforcement officials will be able to release the names of victims and street addresses where crimes occur in automotive accident reports, according to South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley.

Since South Dakota voters passed Constitutional Amendment S — a victim’s rights amendment known as Marsy’s Law — on Election Day, law enforcement agencies have been hesitant to release information about victims in vehicle crashes. But Jackley issued an opinion Monday that said state and local entities may release motor vehicle crash reports, including names of victims and street addresses where crimes have occurred.

“While there is more work being done, this opinion is intended to help victims and those assisting victims in carrying out our new law,” said Jackley. “I would like to thank the individual Task Force members for their willingness to serve and for their assistance on these issues that have affected law enforcement and the public statewide.”

Jackley’s opinion came shortly after a task force made up of victim’s rights advocates, law enforcement agencies and the media met to determine how the amendment should be interpreted. Before Jackley’s opinion was issued, agencies like the South Dakota Department of Public Safety decided against revealing information about victims.

Prior to Jackley’s statement Monday, the Department of Public Safety was attaching a note to each of its crash reports. The note said, “Due to the enactment of Amendment S, known as Marsy’s Law, the release of names in fatal or injury-related vehicle crashes is suspended until further notice.”

Marsy’s Law offers 19 separate rights to victims of crimes, including the right to be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse, the right to be reasonably protected from the accused and the right to privacy. But Jackley said the language of Amendment S doesn’t restrict agencies from releasing certain information.

“In conclusion, based on the principles of constitutional construction and the language of the Amendment, it is my opinion that state and local governments may release in the course of their duties motor vehicle crash reports, street addresses where crimes have occurred, the names of victims in crime report logs, and the law enforcement radio traffic without violating Article VI, § 29, as set forth in this opinion,” Jackley said.

Victims will still have the opportunity to invoke or exercise their rights and receive protections, but Jackley said that opportunity is “neither unlimited nor automatic.” Jackley said a victim must invoke their rights to prevent the disclosure of records or information.