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Montana ACLU files petition against Marsy's Law

LIVINGSTON, Mont. - The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, along with the Montana Association of Counties and the Montana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, filed a petition Tuesday against the implementation of Marsy's Law, claiming it is unconstitutional.

The legislation, officially known as CI-116, expands the definition of victim and extends rights to family members, businesses and anyone else affected by a crime. About 65 percent of Montanans voted in favor of the legislation on Election Day.

The ACLU of Montana argues the law was not voted on properly.

The law was proposed as a single yes-no vote. Alex Rate, the law director for the ACLU of Montana, told NBC Montana he believes there should have been a separate vote on each of the eight amendments to the state constitution.

"The local victim advocacy organizations were not meaningfully consulted," Rate said. "The voters were not educated as to exactly what CI-116 would do, and so we have this situation where we're seeing all sorts of unintended consequences."

If the Montana Supreme Court decides to accept the filed petition it may require additional briefings and arguments from the ACLU of Montana and the state before making a final decision.

"The ACLU does not believe that crime victims deserve constitutional rights," Chuck Denowh, the state director for Marsy's Law of Montana, said. "That's what their lawsuit is about is to take away the constitutional rights that voters enacted for crime victims in Montana." 

If the court sides with the ACLU the initiative would be considered void, and supporters would have to place it on a future ballot to be voted on again.

Marsy's Law is scheduled to be put into law July 1.


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