How Marsy’s Law May Help Crime Victims in Florida

On November 6, 2018, Florida voters approved Marsy’s Law. Marsy’s Law, or Amendment 6 as it was called on the ballot, was originally an amendment to the California State Constitution. It passed as the California Victims’ Bill of Rights Act in the 2008 general election. The law aims to protect and expand the legal rights of crime victims and embodies an enforceable victim’s bill of rights. Since its passage in California, the Marsy’s Law for All Foundation has succeeded in pushing similar laws through in other states.

Marsy’s Law: A Background

In 1983, a UC Santa Barbara student by the name of Marsy Nicholas was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend, Kerry Conley. Conley was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. A week after the murder, the accused killer confronted Marsy’s mother and brother at their local grocery store. Without their knowledge, Conley had been released on bail.

Marsy’s family had no idea the accused killer had been released and experienced considerable suffering. This is typical of the way the justice system operates as it works to protect the rights of criminal defendants. According to the Marsy’s Law Foundation, the measure provides victims with their own bill of rights that forces the justice system to treat them with dignity and respect.

Marsy’s Law has passed in California, Illinois, North and South Dakota, and Ohio before its landslide win in Florida. The law requires courts to consider the safety of victims’ family members. Under the law, family members have legal standing in bail hearings, pleas, sentencing and parole hearings.

Support for Marsy’s Law

Marsy Nicholas’s brother, tech billionaire Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III, is the co-founder, president, and CEO of Broadcom Corporation. According to Ballotpedia, he and his foundation were the largest donors to promote Marsy’s Law in the Sunshine State. Additionally, several sheriffs, the Republican Party of Palm Beach County, and the Family Policy Council supported the measure.

Opposition to Marsy’s Law

Although Amendment 6 won by a landslide, several groups, including the ACLU of Florida, the Florida Public Defender Association, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, the Libertarian Party of Florida, the Tampa Bay Young Republicans, Save My Constitution, and the League of Women Voters of Florida, as well as all major newspapers, opposed it.

Potential Problems with Marsy’s Law

There is a flip side to everything that sounds good and righteous about Marsy’s Law. Some of the key reasons opponents reject the law are:

  • The law grants victims rights they already have, while removing a provision in the state constitution that ensures victims’ rights do not infringe on the rights of accused criminals.
  • The law narrows the time frame in which appeals may be filed.
  • The law might limit the information defendants may receive before trial.
  • The law may undermine due process by threatening existing constitutional rights.

Victims’ rights serve a completely different purpose aimed at ensuring recovery for individuals, not protection against state power. Granting victims constitutional rights equal to the accused in criminal proceedings inappropriately undermines due process by creating conflict between victim and defendant rights. It also exacerbates flagrant inequalities in our criminal legal system.”

Source: https://www.aclu.org/blog/criminal-law-reform/were-victims-rights-advocates-and-we-opposed-marsys-law

Victims’ Rights Under Marsy’s Law

The amendment deletes a section of victims’ rights in the Florida Constitution and replaces it with a detailed list of 11 rights. Some of the most notable rights include:

  • The right to accurate and timely notifications about a case’s public proceedings, such as trials, pleas, and sentencings.
  • The right to be reasonably protected from the accused and any person acting on his or her behalf.
  • The right to discuss concerns regarding plea agreements, pretrial diversion program participation, release, restitution, or sentencing, with the prosecuting attorney.
  • The right to be informed of all postconviction processes and procedures, and to participate in them.
  • The right to due process and to be treated with fairness and respect.

marsy's law crime victims

The Effects of Voting “Yes” on Amendment 6 in Florida

Marsy’s Law was the spotlight of the three measures included in Amendment 6. In addition to granting victims additional rights, a vote for Amendment 6 impacted the age at which judges must require and judicial deference.

The passage of Amendment 6 increases the age at which Florida judges must retire from 70 to 75. Additionally, the law will prohibit state courts from deferring to an administrative agency’s interpretation of a state statute or rule in a lawsuit.

Defense Attorneys Upholding the Law at Each Turn

If you or someone you care about has been accused of a crime, there is a very real possibility that Marsy’s Law will significantly affect the judicial process. At The Umansky Law Firm, we have a strong team of dedicated Orlando criminal defense lawyers ready to protect the rights of accused persons throughout Central Florida.

Our goal is to investigate all the facts of your case and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the entire process. Our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience practicing criminal law in Florida, and will support you every step of the way. Contact our firm or call (407) 228-3838 at any time to discuss the charges against you.