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‘Protecting Michigan Crime Victims Package’ receives a committee hearing

211022_Michigan_State_Capitol.jpg
Myesha Johnson
/
WKAR-MSU

A set of bills geared toward survivors of crime received a hearing Tuesday before the Michigan House Judiciary Committee.

The four-bill “Protecting Michigan Crime Victims Package” aims to expand crime victim’s services.

One bill would amend a current crime victim’s rights law to include crimes like physically threatening a state health department employee under the banner of a “serious misdemeanor.”

House Judiciary Committee Chair Graham Filler (R-DeWitt) is that bill’s sponsor. He said that would ensure survivors get the resources they need.

“All we’re doing is saying there are new crimes not listed in Michigan law and we want to make sure the victims services match up. So, we’re just matching up two sections of the law. That’s all we’re doing. We are not creating new serious misdemeanors,” Filler said.

During Tuesday’s hearing, questions arose over the impact the bill could have on the expungement process. State Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids) brought up some specific crimes listed in the bill.

“If we want to give access to services to folks who are victims [of] that crime, great. But if we want to make it harder to get those crimes expunged, that’s certainly not what I’d be interested in entertaining,” he said.

Two other bills in the package would allow the blurring of a survivor’s face during court proceedings and permit remote victim impact statements. Filler said that’s important since courts have held some proceedings remotely during the pandemic.

“From a victim’s perspective, do you really want -- after being victimized and then seeing the person who did this to you get convicted -- do you always want to go into that room with the person who’s victimized you again?" he asked. "I would argue that some of them do not.”

Another bill in the package would allow prosecutors or law enforcement officers to share a domestic or sexual abuse survivor’s contact information with service providers.

Sponsor state Rep. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo) said law enforcement can sometimes hesitate to provide outreach because the law doesn’t explicitly say it can.

“This bill would help ensure that survivors are connected with resources while still protecting their privacy in order to help meet their individual and unique needs in these incredibly distressing and traumatic situations,” she said.

Rogers said those advocacy programs are held to high privacy standards. The bill would still require law enforcement or prosecutors to let the survivor know their information was shared.

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