Jessica AlvarezExecutive Editor

On November 6, 2018, Florida citizens voted on several amendments to add into the Florida Constitution. Amendment 6 on the ballot proposed several changes, one of which deals with the rights of crime victims, also known as Marsy’s Law. A version of this law has been passed in several states including, but not limited to, California, Oklahoma, Georgia, and Illinois. Florida’s version of Marsy’s Law, found in Article I Section 16 of the Florida Constitution, gives more rights to victims of crime.

This new addition to the Florida Constitution defines the term “victim” to include the actual victim, “the victim’s lawful representative, the parent or guardian (if a minor), or the next of kin of the homicide victim” (unless there is actual or potential conflict with the interests of the victim). Additionally, Marsy’s Law brings into action new rights including the “right to due process and to be treated with fairness and respect; [the] right to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse; [the] right to have the victim’s welfare considered when setting bail; [the] right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay, among others.”

While most, if not all, would agree that crime victims should have designated rights, Marsy’s Law has been said to be vague and broad. One highly discussed issue is the provision that guarantees the victim’s privacy by protecting (or shielding) information or records “that could be used to locate or harass the victim or which could disclose confidential or privileged information about the victim.” This ambiguously broad provision has opened the door for law enforcement to “close off” information that previously was open to the public out of concern of conflicts between Florida’s public record laws and the new requirement of maintaining a victim’s privacy. It is vital that the legislature interpret Marsy’s Law to specify exactly what this provision encompasses.

Additionally, Marsy’s Law seems to prejudice defendants. Several judges and attorneys throughout the State have shared their thoughts about the effects of this new law. Eighth Circuit Public Defender Stacy Scott believes that this “amendment creates many uncertainties.” She expressed concern about the provision allowing state attorneys to call for a speedy trial. “The court has 15 days to rule on the motion, and if granted, the trial must be held in [5] to 60 days. There’s no requirement that the state attorney comply with discovery requirements before filing such a motion.” This provision is extremely prejudicial to a defendant because it could force the defendant to go to trial without being provided some discovery or without the ability to sufficiently investigate possible defenses.

Marsy’s Law has also limited the time frame for criminal defendants to file appeals. It provides that “[a]ll state-level appeals . . . on any judgment must be complete within [2] years from the date of appeal in non-capital cases and within [5] years from the date of appeal in capital cases . . . .” These limitations could negatively affect a defendant’s due process rights because the defense might not have enough time to sufficiently investigate potential constitutional errors from the lower courts.

Overall, while Marsy’s Law is a “comprehensive protection of victims’ rights,” it’s alleged vagueness will keep the Florida Legislature on high alert to ensure that these rights do not impede on those rights of criminal defendants.