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California Proposition 8, Victims' Bill of Rights (June 1982)

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California Proposition 8, known by its supporters as the Victims' Bill of Rights, was on the June 8, 1982 statewide primary ballot in California as a combined initiated constitutional amendment and state statute, where it was approved.

Proposition 8 made a number of changes both to the California Constitution and to California's statutory law that altered criminal justice procedures, punishments and constitutional rights.

In 2008, California voters approved Proposition 9, Marsy's Law, which expanded the rights accorded to victims in the state.


  • Restitution. Under the law that existed before Proposition 8 was enacted, crime victims were not automatically entitled to receive "restitution" from the person convicted of the crime. Proposition 8 granted a constitutional right to crime victims to receive restitution. With a few exceptions, under Proposition 8, convicted persons are required to make restitution to any victims who suffered a loss as the result of their crime.
  • School safety. Proposition 8 added a section to the California Constitution declaring that students and staff of public elementary and secondary schools have the "inalienable right to attend campuses which are safe, secure, and peaceful."
  • Evidence. Proposition 8 allowed evidence to be presented in state courts that had not previously been allowed.
  • Bail. Proposition 8 amended the California Constitution to give the courts discretion in deciding whether to grant bail. It continued a prohibition on bail in felony cases punishable by death when the proof of guilt is evident or the presumption of guilt is great. Proposition 8 also added to the California Constitution provisions that were already in statutory law that required the courts to consider certain factors when deliberating over fixing, reducing, or denying bail or permitting release without bail. Proposition 8 also contains a provision that requires courts to state for the record what their reasons are when they grant or deny bail, or release an accused person without requiring bail.
  • Prior Convictions. Proposition 8 amended the California Constitution to require that information about prior felony convictions be used without limitation to discredit the testimony of a witness, including that of a defendant.
  • Longer Prison Terms. Proposition 8 included two provisions that increased prison sentences for persons convicted of specified felonies.
  • Defenses of Diminished Capacity and Insanity. Proposition 8 prohibited the use of evidence concerning a defendant's intoxication, trauma, mental illness, disease, or defect for the purpose of proving or contesting whether a defendant had a certain state of mind in connection with the commission of a crime.
  • Victim Statements. Proposition 8 required that the victims of any crimes, or the next of kin of the victims if the victims have died, be notified of the sentencing hearing and any parole hearing involving persons sentenced to state prison or the Youth Authority. During the hearings, the victim, next of kin, or his or her attorney have the right to make statements to the court or hearing board. Proposition 8 also requires the court or hearing board to state whether the convicted person would pose a threat to public safety if he or she is released on probation or parole.
  • Plea Bargaining. Proposition 8 restricts plea bargaining in cases involving specified felonies and offenses of driving while under the influence of an intoxicating substance.
  • Exclusion of Certain Persons from Sentencing to the Youth Authority. Proposition 8 prohibits sending to the Youth Authority persons who are 18 years of age or older at the time they commit murder, rape, or other specified felonies.
  • Mentally Disordered Sex Offenders. Proposition 8 contained a provision to change the law concerning the treatment of certain sex offenders. The California State Legislature enacted a law in 1981 that changed the law in the way that Proposition 8 also would change it. As a consequence, the enactment of Proposition 8 had no material effect on the laws in the state regarding mentally disordered sex offenders.

Election results

Proposition 8
Approveda Yes 2,826,081 56.4%

Text of measure


The ballot title was:

Criminal Justice. Initiative Statutes and Constitutional Amendment.


The official summary provided to describe Proposition 8 said:

"Amends Constitution and enacts several statutes concerning procedural treatment, sentencing, release, and other matters for accused and convicted persons. Includes provisions regarding restitution to victims from persons convicted of crimes, right to safe schools, exclusion of relevant evidence, bail, use of prior felony convictions for impeachment purposes or sentence enhancement, abolishing defense of diminished capacity, use of evidence regarding mental disorder, proof of insanity, notification and appearance of victims at sentencing and parole hearings, restricting plea bargaining, Youth Authority commitments, and other matters. Summary of Legislative Analyst's estimate of net state and local government fiscal impact; As the fiscal effect would depend on many factors that cannot be predicted, the net fiscal effect of this measure cannot be determined with any degree of certainty. However, approval of the measure would result in major state and local costs. The measure could: increase local administration costs; increase state administrative costs; increase claims against the state and local governments relating to enforcement of the right to safe schools; increase school security costs to provide safe schools; increase the cost of operating county jails by increasing the jail populations; increase court costs; and increase the cost of operating the state's prison system by increasing the prison population (estimated to be about $47 million increased annual prison operating costs and $280 million prison construction costs based on various assumptions)."

Fiscal impact

See also: Fiscal impact statement

The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:

"The net fiscal effect of this measure cannot be determined with any degree of certainty. This is because the fiscal effect would depend on many factors that cannot be predicted. Specifically, it would depend on:
  • how various provisions are implemented by the Legislature, local governments, and school districts,
  • how the rights established by the measure are enforced by the courts,
  • how many persons are incarcerated in state prison or detained in county jails for longer periods of time,
  • how the various provisions affect criminal behavior (that is, to what extent the measure has a deterrent effect), and
  • how the criminal justice system reacts to the measure.
We conclude, however, that approval of the measure would result in major state and local costs. This is because the measure, taken as a whole, could:
  • increase local administration costs (for example, there would be a cost to implement the restitution procedures and to notify victims of sentencing hearings),
  • increase state administrative costs (for example, there would be a cost to notify victims of parole hearings),
  • increase claims against the state and local governments relating to enforcement of the right to safe schools,
  • increase school security costs to provide safe schools,
  • increase the cost of operating county jails by increasing the jail populations (for example, more persons accused of crimes could be denied bail in order to assure public safety and more persons could be detained in jail while awaiting trial due to the elimination of plea bargaining),
  • increase court costs (for example, costs could increase due to more extensive bail hearings and the elimination of plea bargaining), and
  • increase the cost of operating the state's prison system by increasing the prison population (for example, by increasing terms for certain repeat offenders). Based on various assumptions, the Department of Corrections estimates that the provisions that would result in longer prison terms for repeat offenders would lengthen the terms of at least 1,200 persons each year. The department states that this estimate may be low for several reasons. In addition, the measure's impact on conviction and sentencing trends and patterns cannot be predicted. As a result of these uncertainties, we cannot estimate how many persons would serve longer prison terms if this measure is approved. If, however, 1,200 persons per year were to receive the new sentences instead of the sentences provided under current law, annual state prison operating costs would increase by about $47 million (in 1982-83 prices) by the mid-1990s. This cost estimate assumes that the state's prison population would be about 3,600 higher than under existing law. In addition, the state might need to spend up to $280 million (in 1982 prices) to construct facilities to house these additional prisoners. The construction cost estimate assumes that existing standards for prisons would be followed when the new facilities were constructed, and that the custody levels (for example, maximum security) required for the additional inmates would match current housing patterns. To the extent that some of the additional prisoners could be housed by crowding existing facilities, both the estimated operating and construction costs could be reduced."

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