Tennessee is one of thirty-two states that have amended their constitutions to include rights for crime victims. Voters gave final approval to the amendment in November of 1998, with 89% of the voters "for" the amendment.
The amendment added the following language to Article 1 of the Constitution as a new section:
To preserve and protect the rights of victims of crime to justice and due process, victims shall be entitled to the following basic rights:
- The right to confer with the prosecution.
- The right to be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse throughout the criminal justicesystem.
- The right to be present at all proceedings where the defendant has the right to be present.
- The right to be heard, when relevant, at all critical stages of the criminal justice process as defined by the General Assembly.
- The right to be informed of all proceedings, and of the release, transfer or escape of the accused or convicted person.
- The right to a speedy trial or disposition and a prompt and final conclusion of the case after the conviction or sentence.
- The right to restitution from the offender.
- The right to be informed of each of the rights established for victims.
The General Assembly has the authority to enact substantive and procedural laws to define, implement, preserve and protect the rights guaranteed to victims by this section.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the General Assembly has the authority to enact laws to provide that a judge, attorney for the state, law enforcement officer or law enforcement agency is not liable for a failure or inability to provide a right enumerated in this section.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That the failure or inability of any person to provide a right or service enumerated in this section may not be used by a defendant in a criminal case as a ground for appeal, new trial, post-conviction relief or habeas corpus nor shall it be construed to authorize a court to set aside, reverse, vacate or void a finding of guilt, or an acceptance of a plea of guilty in any criminal case.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That nothing in this section shall be construed as creating a cause of action for money damages against the state, a county, a municipality, or any of the agencies, instrumentalities, or employees thereof. The General Assembly has the authority to provide for other remedies to ensure adequate enforcement of this section.