Is Marsy’s Law hurting local criminal investigations?

Marsy’s Law took effect Jan. 8 in Florida

According to Jacksonville Sheriff's Office records there have been more murders this year than 2018. Now we're asking -- are these crimes being solved?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The intent of Marsy’s Law, which was approved by 61% of Florida voters in 2018, is to keep victims safe from people that committed crimes against them in Florida. But the law can also stop citizens from knowing about crimes near their homes.

“Certainly, initially, it’s making it more difficult out of an abundance of caution to comport with Marsy’s Law. The Sheriffs Office now goes to great length to redact a great deal of information from police reports,” said John Holzbaur, Associate Attorney with the Law Offices of Randy Reep.

Holzbaur said Marsy’s Law works for victims, but its a board rule that leads to few details about a crime.

Marsy’s Law was created to protect the victims of crimes and give them notice if the person that victimized their family is out of prison. A similar law is now in several states including Florida, Georgia and California. In Florida, the definition has expanded to keeping initial information about the crime secret.

For example, the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office redacts the victim’s name, address and crime details but at least some of that information would be released in open court if the case goes to trial.

It’s unclear if the law is helping or hurting police as they investigate to solve crimes.

According to News4Jax records, the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office had 110 murders in 2018. Of those cases, 33 ended in arrests and four were cleared by exception equalling a 30% solve rate.

Before and after

Jan. 1, 2019 - March 27, 2019 (before Marsy’s Law): 40 murders, 18 arrests, 4 cleared by exception, 45% solve rate

March 28, 2019 to Dec. 23, 2019 (after Marsy’s Law): 86 murders, 25 arrests, 2 cleared by exception, 29% solve rate

There are many local cases under Marsy’s Law that have not been solved.

A deadly shooting near the New Town area that police said is connected to a double shooting in the same area. In another case, two masked men were seen running from the scene of a deadly shooting in the Hidden Hills neighborhood.

Holzbaur believes Marsy’s Law works but it will need to make an adjustment for the public to access information.

“This is going to have to be fleshed out over time and jurisdiction and through individual incidents, we are going to have to flesh out what this really means and how we can successfully blend these two opposing ideas,” said Holzbaur. “The state will have to find a fine balance between victim’s rights and the right for the public to know.”

News4Jax did talk with one family of a recent murder. They said they do not believe Marsy’s Law has impacted their case.

About the Author:

Veteran journalist and Emmy Award winning anchor