INGLESIDE, Ill. (AP) — A suburban Chicago woman is pushing to change a state law so that victims of violent crimes would get an attorney for free.

Denise Rotheimer of Ingleside has for years worked to amend Illinois’ Rights of Crime Victim and Witnesses Act, which is designed to protect and enforce crime victims’ rights throughout the criminal justice process, the Daily Herald reported.

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Rotheimer said the act doesn’t do enough, so she’s working to give victims the option to retain an attorney for free for ongoing criminal cases.

This is her third attempt to make changes to the crime victim act since her daughter was sexually assaulted in 2001. Her daughter has spoken publicly about her assault, for which a man received reduced prison time in exchange for a guilty plea.

In 2010, Rotheimer and her daughter pushed for “Jasmine’s Law,” which enables judges to double prison sentences on felony sex offenses for offenders who commit an act of sexual violence against minors where the victim was under the influence of alcohol.

The proposed legislation is expected to be discussed in the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee in late November.

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According to Rotheimer, the funding would come from the Crime Victim Compensation Fund, created to reduce the financial burden on victims of violent crime and their families.

Rotheimer contends that victims of violent crimes don’t have the sufficient protection for their interests in criminal cases and said victims usually make the mistake of believing prosecutors are their lawyers.

“They are there as an attorney for the state and there to follow the law,” she said.
Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim agreed that a prosecutor’s role is to follow the law, not represent the victim against the defendant.

State Sen. Pam Althoff, a McHenry Republican who is co-sponsoring the amendment, said there might be some challenges, as money is always an issue and because those who oppose the bill want to see how other recent amendments to the act work before changing it again.

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