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An update to Marsy's Law for Florida



 

Florida’s Marsy’s Law has been in the news since the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in November of 2023. Many of you that do not practice in the field of criminal law may not be familiar with Marsy’s Law, and the effects of the Florida Supreme Court’s decision.


Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee Nicholas, a college student in California who was stalked and murdered by her former boyfriend. Marsy’s parents were confronted by the accused murderer in a grocery store shortly after the murder. The family was not aware that the accused had been released and without any right to demand information about the case.


As a result, the Marsy’s Law initiative began and was passed in California in 2008. Marsy’s Law was passed overwhelmingly in Florida in November of 2018. The law was passed as a Constitutional Amendment (Amendment 6) through a voter referendum. Its provisions are now embodied in Article I, Section 16 (b) – (e) of the Florida Constitution.


Victims of crime in Florida are now guaranteed the rights found in its Constitutional provisions including the following: to be treated with dignity and respect, to be reasonably protected, to receive notice of and ability to be present at and heard at all public proceedings involving the criminal conduct; to notice of release and escape, and the right to privacy.


The privacy right is specified to be the right to prevent disclosure of “information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victims’ family”. Art. I, Sect. 16 (b) (5), Fla. Const.


As a result of this provision, law enforcement redacted police investigative reports and charges so that the victim or the victim’s family were not identified. Some law enforcement agencies have interpreted the Law, asserting that the law enforcement officers could themselves be victims of crimes and that the officers’ names were protected from disclosure by Marsy’s Law.


One such expansion resulted in the case of the City of Tallahassee v. Florida Police Benevolent Assoc. Supreme Court of Florida, November 30, 2023, —So. d 3d— 2023 WL 8264181. In 2020, two Tallahassee police officers, in separate incidents, fatally shot armed suspects who were threatening them. The officers were cleared, and the City intended to report their names when the F.P.B.A. obtained an emergency injunction, asserting that Marsy’s Law should shield the officers’ identities.


In a 6-0 decision the Florida Supreme Court ruled that Marsy’s Law could not be used to shield the identities of law enforcement officers involved in shooting cases. “Marsy’s Law guarantees to no victim – police officer or otherwise. – the categorical right to withhold his or her name from disclosure.” F.P.B.A, at 3.


The Constitutional provision of Marsy’s Law protects “information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family…” F.P.B.A., at 9, quoting Art. I, Sect. 16 (b) (5) Fla. Const.


“One’s name,” the Florida Supreme Court states, “is not that kind of information or record; it communicates nothing about where the individual can be found or bothered.” F.P.B.A., at 11. In contrast, other provisions of the State Constitution expressly address the disclosure of a person’s identity. See Art. Y, sect. 25 (b) Fla. Const.


The Court’s decision resulted in limiting the scope of the protections to all persons.


About the Collier CountyClerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller

Crystal K. Kinzel, Collier County Clerk and Comptroller, is an independently elected constitutional officer responsible for safeguarding public funds and protecting public records. The Clerk’s Office is committed to improving services to allow greater accessibility of information and resources for the public.

For more information, visit collierclerk.com.

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