Florida voters will decide whether the rights of victims will become part of the state’s constitution in November’s General Election.
Voters will be able to vote on considering Marsy’s Law, which would guarantee victims receive timely notifications when there are changes in whether an offender is in custody or major developments in a criminal case, said Jennifer Fennell, a spokesperson for the proposal. It will also guarantee the right of victims and their families to be present and speak at court proceedings.
The proposal has received support from Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, as well as 23 out of 66 other state sheriffs.
On Monday, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission voted 34-3 in favor of placing Marsy’s Law on the 2018 general election ballot on November 6, Fennell said. The commission is made up of 37 commissioners who meet once every 20 years to examine the Florida Constitution and propose changes for voter consideration.
In order for it to pass and become part of the state’s constitution, it will need 60 percent of the votes in the general election, Fennell said.
Florida is one of 15 states that does not provide clear and enforceable rights for victims of crimes in its constitution, Fennell said.
“I think everybody who is involved in the criminal justice process is concerned with making sure victims have a voice and they are treated with dignity and respect,” Fennell said. “That’s what Marsy’s Law for Florida would do.”
Sheriff Darnell was not immediately available for comment. Alachua County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sgt. Brett Rhodenizer said the rights of the victims are not currently specified in Florida state law.
Rhodenizer said the support from Darnell and two dozen other sheriffs shows that law enforcement officials will continue to promote and protect victims’ rights.
Marsy’s Law does not establish specific day-to-day changes, but it guarantees and codifies the rights of the victims, Rhodenizer said.
“We can, should and must protect the rights of the accused up to and through their conviction, but we also have to protect the rights of our victims in crime,” he said.