Victims of crime deserve the same rights as those of the accused and convicted. That’s the central premise behind Marsy’s Law, a proposal before the state’s Constitutional Revision Commission that could go on the November ballot for consideration by voters.
At a press conference this morning, supporters of the proposal, including CRC commissioner Tim Cerio, explained the rationale behind the proposal.
“Marsy’s Law for Florida is about bringing equity to the criminal justice process. I believe victims should have the same rights and protections as those accused or convicted of a crime – nothing more and nothing less. By placing clear, enforceable rights and protections in our state’s most powerful legal document, we ensure victims and their families have a voice,” Cerio said. The full language can be viewed here: Proposal 96
Florida is one of only 15 states that does not provide constitutional-level protections for victims of crimes. Criminals and those accused of crimes have 20 distinct rights outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Some prosecutors and defense attorneys argue that Marsy’s Law makes it harder to negotiate plea deals and ties prosecutors hands. But advocates say that codifying victim’s rights in the constitution makes it harder for prosecutors and defense attorneys to overlook the victims when negotiating plea deals.
“As a survivor of sexual violence, I understand the fear and isolation victims go through. In Florida, the scales of justice are far from balanced. Victims and their families should not fear that they will go unheard or that the criminal justice process will cause them additional trauma or revictimization. They should never feel like an object in an investigation or worse,” said Sen. Lauren Book. “That’s why we need Marsy’s Law for Florida – so victims and their families will finally be given the equal rights, dignity and respect they deserve.”
Marsy’s Law for Florida would provide victims and their families with basic rights, including 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.
Marsy’s Law has been enacted in six other states: California, Illinois, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Montana. The bill recently passed in Ohio in November with 83 percent of voters voting in favor of Marsy’s Law. A survey commissioned by Marsy’s Law for Florida in October showed 87 percent of likely Florida voters believe victims should have, at the very least, the same protections in the state constitution as those given to those accused of committing crimes. When read specific ballot language and informed of the background behind Marsy’s Law, 85 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for a constitutional amendment that guarantees victims’ rights in the Florida Constitution.
If passed by the CRC, Marsy’s Law for Florida would be placed on the 2018 General Election ballot as a constitutional amendment. The proposal must receive 60 percent of the vote to be placed in the Florida Constitution.