In a victory for victim’s rights advocates, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission’s Declaration of Rights committee approved Marsy’s Law, a proposal aimed at “bringing equity to the criminal justice system” and put victims on equal legal footing with their accusers.
The proposal now heads to the full Constitution Revision Commission for a vote, needing at least 22 commissioners to support it for passage. If that happens, it will be placed on the 2018 general election ballot as a constitutional amendment, and voters will decide on whether or not to enshrine it in the state constitution. A supermajority of 60% is required for passage.
“This was a critical step forward for Marsy’s Law for Florida and I thank the members of the Declaration of Rights Committee who voted in favor of this commonsense proposal that will bring the scales of justice into balance for Florida victims and their families,” said Commissioner Tim Cerio.
Marsy’s Law for Florida would amend Florida’s Constitution to include basic rights for victims and their families, such as the right to be notified of major developments in the criminal case, the right to be informed if any changes to the offender’s custodial status, the right to restitution and the right to have a voice in court proceedings, plea bargains or parole hearings.
“Our United States Constitution specifies 20 distinct rights for criminals and those accused of crimes. There is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that speaks to victims’ rights. But, where the U.S. Constitution is silent, Florida’s state constitution does not have to be,” Cerio said.
Marsy’s Law for Florida has garnered bipartisan support from CRC members and other leaders across the state. The proposal is currently co-sponsored by CRC Commissioners Patricia Levesque, Darlene Jordan, Fred Karlinsky, Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, Brecht Heuchan, Belinda Keiser and Sen. Darryl Rouson. Sen. Lauren Book, a survivor of child sexual abuse, has also endorsed the measure.
“Floridians deserve the opportunity to vote for constitutional protections for crime victims and their families,” said Sen. Book. “And today, we are one step closer to seeing Marsy’s Law on the ballot. We owe today’s victory to the courageous voices of victims, survivors, and families from across the state who have opened themselves and their stories to this process to help us make things different and better for others.”