County officials fear costs of implementing Marsy's Law

Published: Nov. 22, 2016 at 10:30 PM CST
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South Dakota voters approved Marsy’s Law this November, changing the state’s constitution to increase victims’ rights – mainly through mandatory notifications.

But Minnehaha County officials say right now, it’s creating a lot of extra work.

“We have so many things going right now with crimes that we're investigating, follow up on homicides we're working on. Trying to prevent certain crimes, trying to deal with the epidemic of methamphetamines. Meantime we're wasting resources trying to understand and redefine clearly what are the new expectations,” says Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead.

County officials say the issue comes with notifying the victims of minor crimes.

“Everything from stolen bubble gum to 80 vandalized mail boxes,” says Milstead.

“The states attorney just told us today that his staff has sent out 800 letters notifying people that we normally wouldn't have notified before this law went into effect, most of these people probably aren't going to care,” says Minnehaha County Commissioner chairman Cindy Heiberger.

The Minnehaha County Commission already approved one additional staff member for the state attorney’s office.

“Pennington County just hired four additional people just for victim/witness assistance, just to handle Marsy's Law.” Milstead says.

“Where does the additional staff come from, where does that money comes from, how do we cover this,” Heiberger says.

Marsy’s Law advocate Jason Glodt says counties have no reason to panic.

“There should not be any significant cost increase and other states have already proven that. Utilizing technology with enable us to enact Marcy's Law notification laws without hiring additional people,’ says Glodt.

Glodt says a one-time expense of $400,000 will expand the state’s electronic victim notification program to meet all of the new law’s requirements.

“The things they're concerned about are addressed through technology. It’s very simple - you go on to the Internet, you register for the SAVIN system…and they'll get the automated notifications.”

Glodt says while victims of petty crimes do have the right to be notified; most never chose to invoke their rights.

However, county officials say the way the law is written, they don’t feel it’s an option for people to opt in. The counties are operating under the assumption they’re required to make sure every victim is notified.

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley will speak with KSFY News Wednesday to try and clarify what the law requires of state and county officials.

One requirement the state is already fulfilling is handing out Marsy’s Cards to every victim that explains their new constitutional rights.

Glodt says Marsy’s Law has already been implemented in a majority of other U.S. States for years and no other state has ever had any major issues or expenses implementing the victim notification system.