On November 6 voters in Florida voted Yes to Amendment 6. Amendment 6, also known as Marsy’s Law, called for the revision of Section 16 of Article I of the Constitution of Florida, which details the rights of crime victims. Amendment 6 amends the current language in the Florida Constitution, which previously stated that victims have the right in a criminal proceeding to:
“be informed, to be present, and to be heard when relevant, at all crucial stages of criminal proceedings, to the extent that these rights do not interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused.”
This constitutional amendment was modeled after California’s Marsy’s Law—a law that was enacted when a mother, whose daughter was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend, was confronted in a local grocery store a week after the murder by the accused killer; the mother did not know he had been released on bail.
Rights for Crime Victims
Prior to Amendment 6, Florida law already called for protecting victims’ rights, both in the state statute and in a brief clause of the state constitution, but the new law includes additional rights such as the right to be notified as the case progresses, be present at all proceedings, and the right to restitution.
Victims’ rights in Florida also include:
- To have information or records protected that could be used to locate or harass the victim or which could disclose confidential or privileged information about the victim.
- To confer with the attorney for the government.
- To be heard in any proceeding during including release, plea, sentencing, parole, or pardon.
- To timely notice of any release, escape or death of the accused, if the accused is in custody or on supervision at the time of death.
To see all 11 rights added under Amendment 6, visit www.marsyslawforfl.com. The 11 newly enacted rights are now in the state constitution and provide for uniformity across the state.
What it Means for Victims
First, the use of the word “victim” includes the actual victim, the victim’s lawful representative, the parent or guardian (if a minor), or the next of kin of the homicide victim (unless there is a potential conflict with the interests of the victim).
One of the biggest changes is that it allows victims who retain attorneys to have more of a voice in court. A victim is able to address the courtroom through representation and no longer has to wait until sentencing to make their thoughts and feelings heard. The victim/prosecutor can also file a demand for a speedy trial, something that previously only a defendant could file. A demand for a speedy trial by the prosecution now requires the defendant to be brought to trial within 5-60 days of the State’s Motion, once granted by the Judge.
What It Means for Defendants
Defendants could have a more difficult time in defending themselves with the new changes of Amendment 6; especially with a new law allowing the victim or the State of Florida to request a speedy trial. This rule is extremely prejudicial to the Defendant as he may be forced to go to trial without being provided certain discovery, the ability to conduct depositions, the ability to file motions to suppress, or just generally the ability to adequately investigate possible defenses for trial.
In addition, Amendment 6 also imposes time limitations on criminal appeals, which now must be completed within two years for non-capital cases and five years for capital. Time limitations on appeals may harm a Defendant’s due process rights when they are not given an adequate amount of time to investigate any possible constitutional errors during the trial of the lower court.
While there are pros and cons to Amendment 6, Florida voters have decided to move forward and embrace a new era of victims’ rights. During this time of transition, it is even more important for both defendants and victims to know their rights. At Hubbs Law Firm, our lawyers are highly trained and versed on the constitutional changes and are able to represent both the victim as well as the accused. For more information and a free consultation, contact us at (305) 665-9040.