Marsy’s Law has gotten confusing — but an advocate is trying to set the record straight

Constitution
Excerpt from 1885 Florida Constitution. Photo edited and used with permission. Credit: State Archives of Florida.

Marsy’s Law went into effect earlier this year, but there’s confusion on how much information law enforcement can reveal when it comes to victims of crimes.

The victims’ rights measure – Constitutional Amendment 6 on last November’s statewide ballot – was overwhelmingly approved by millions of voters.

But local law enforcement officials haven’t been on the same page about whether the measure automatically grants confidentiality to crime victims or whether those victims must ask for privacy first.

Now, some agencies are choosing not to release any information that could identify crime victims, in order to stay within the law.

For example, WINK-TV recently reported that the Fort Myers Police Department is declining to release details about a home invasion, citing Marsy’s Law as the reason.

That compelled an official with the group Marsy’s Law for Florida to try to set the record straight.

The group’s news release states two things:

–There are no provisions in Marsy’s Law for Florida that prevent the release of details of a case, including general information on where crimes have taken place;

–There are also no provisions in Marsy’s Law for Florida that delay the timely release of information about a crime.

Paul Hawkes is a former judge with Florida’s First District Court of Appeal and is now serving as counsel for Marsy’s Law for Florida.

He says in the news release that, “While we appreciate the Fort Myers Police Department’s efforts to honor crime victims’ rights, withholding details of a case and delaying release of information about a crime is not the intention of Marsy’s Law for Florida. This is an overly extreme interpretation of the law.”

He added: “While crime victims’ rights should never be compromised, and the ability for victims to prevent the release of information that could be used to locate or harass them is critical, law enforcement agencies should continue to provide information that is in the best interest of public safety.”

But David Marsey, an attorney representing the Florida Police Chiefs Association, said that Hawkes’ statement does little to clear up the ambiguities with the law.

“It appears we will have to wait for judicial or legislative action to obtain the much-needed clarification,” he said in an email response.

 

 

 

 

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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