Sunday, March 07, 2010

Crime Victims Equality Act in New Hampshire

By Renny Cushing

Last year I sponsored legislation (House Bill 370) to prohibit discrimination against victims of crime based upon their position on the death penalty.

The bill was inspired by my experience working with other survivors of homicide victims, including some who found they experienced a loss of standing and recognition of rights as crime victims under the law when they spoke out against or acted in opposition to the death penalty for the person who murdered their loved ones. The idea for a Crime Victims Equality Act was first put forth as a policy recommendation in "Dignity Denied: The Experience of Murder Victims' Family Members Who Oppose the Death Penalty" a report Susannah Sheffer and I wrote a few years ago. New Hampshire was the fourth state to consider such victims legislation, and the first state where it became law.

The legislation amended New Hampshire's existing "Rights of Crime Victims" law by adding the new guarantee of the right of equality for all survivors of homicide victims. It is the first law in the nation to formally acknowledge that family members of murder victims have differences of opinion on capital punishment, and gives equal respect under the law to that diversity to ensure that whether one supports or opposes or is unsure or neutral on the death penalty, they will still enjoy all rights and support they are entitled to as crime victims. During the course of legislative hearings on the bill the measure was publicly supported by victims of crime and victims advocate, and both pro-death penalty and anti-death penalty lawmakers found common ground to vote for the bill. The bill was signed by Governor John Lynch, a death penalty supporter and became effective as the law of New Hampshire in October 6, 2009.

Below is the final version of HB 370, which became Chapter 312 of the 2009 Law of New Hampshire.







AN ACT relative to equality of treatment of victims of crime.

SPONSORS: Rep. Cushing, Rock 15

COMMITTEE: Criminal Justice and Public Safety


This bill provides that crime victims shall be guaranteed all federal and state constitutional rights on an equal basis. The bill also provides that crime victims shall be treated equally under the law regardless of the victim’s position on the death penalty.

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Explanation: Matter added to current law appears in bold italics.

Matter removed from current law appears [in brackets and struckthrough.]

Matter which is either (a) all new or (b) repealed and reenacted appears in regular type.




In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand Nine

AN ACT relative to equality of treatment of victims of crime.

Be it Enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

312:1 New Subparagraph; Rights of Crime Victims. Amend RSA 21-M:8-k, II by inserting after subparagraph (t) the following new subparagraph:

(u) The right to all federal and state constitutional rights guaranteed to all victims of crime on an equal basis, and notwithstanding the provisions of any laws on capital punishment, the right not to be discriminated against or have their rights as a victim denied, diminished, expanded, or enhanced on the basis of the victim’s support for, opposition to, or neutrality on the death penalty.

312:2 Effective Date. This act shall take effect 60 days after its passage.

Approved: August 7, 2009

Effective Date: October 6, 2009

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