TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Ambiguities in a newly approved constitutional amendment, designed to expand the rights of crime victims, are creating headaches for law enforcement agencies across the state.
Different agencies in the same county have different ideas of what’s required, and both legislative changes and lawsuits are on the horizon.
Amendment 6, which became widely known as the “Marsy’s Law” amendment, barely squeaked into the Florida Constitution. The measure giving crime victims new rights received support from 61.6 percent of voters in the Nov. 6 election, clearing a 60 percent threshold needed for passage.
The amendment included a series of rights for crime victims, including the right to be notified of major developments in criminal cases and the right to be heard in legal proceedings.
Now, the First Amendment Foundation and virtually every police legal advisor in the state say the amendment leaves too many questions unanswered. "Ambiguous" is the word most are using.
At the Tallahassee Police Department, every victim’s name from every report, including reports from years ago, is being redacted.
“We cannot, basically, reveal the victim's name and/or their family or their location,” said Police Department spokesman Damon Miller. "So a lot of things will be dependent on the relationship to the victims.”
In the state Capitol, while the Police Department is redacting everything, the Leon County Sheriff's Office isn’t redacting anything unless the victim requests it.
Richard Greenberg, president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, calls what the amendment does "unprecedented."
“The public could be able to provide information, but if they don’t know who the victim is or maybe where the incident occurred, things like that, it’s going to hinder law enforcement,” Greenberg said.
State lawmakers have already held a roundtable, and legislation to clarify the amendment will be filed.
Court challenges, particularly a federal challenge over the rights of the accused, is also in the works.
A similar amendment in Montana was declared unconstitutional, and courts in states where it has been adopted are reviewing its constitutionality.