SPRINGFIELD - Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed two bills into law that better protect the rights of violent crime victims and witnesses. The legislative package was initiated by Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine.
“Victims of crime and people who witness violence can suffer emotional scars that last long after the physical damage. The bills I’m signing today make sure victims and their families have an opportunity to share their pain with the judge, and that witnesses can agree to help prosecutors without fear of revenge,” said Governor Blagojevich.
House Bill 4777, sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) and Rep. Maria A. Berrios (D-Chicago), ensures that victims of violent crime have a right to present impact statements during the sentencing of an offender convicted of a violent crime, even if a plea agreement has been made or is being considered by a judge. Additionally, it explicitly gives grandparents of violent crime victims the right to enter victim impact statements.
House Bill 4538, sponsored by Sen. Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago) and Rep. Patricia Baily (D-Chicago), expands the safeguards against harassing a witness to include individuals and their family members who were expected to testify but did not because either the charges against the defendant were dismissed or the defendant pled guilty to the charges. Harassing an expected witness carries the same penalty as harassing a witness that testified – a class 2 felony, punishable by 3 to 7 years imprisonment.
"The passage of these two measures will go a long way toward making the criminal justice system safer and more responsive to crime witnesses and the families of crime victims," said Devine. "With these new laws, the bravery and resolve that they show in court will now better
recognized and protected. We are pleased that the Governor has prioritized these issues in
signing these bills and has taken important action in bettering the legal process for those who are so essential to it."
House Bills 4538 and 4777 are effective immediately.