Florida Supreme Court Decided That Under Marsy’s Law, Police, and Crime Victims Can’t Keep Their Identities Private


The Florida Supreme Court said on November 30 that “Marsy’s Law,” a constitutional amendment that voters passed in 2018, does not give crime victims a right to keep their names secret. This is a big decision that will affect everyone in Florida.

The justices said that the amendment’s rules that let crime victims keep their names from the public directly go against two other rights in Florida’s Constitution. These are the rights of criminal defendants to face their accusers and the rights of people to look at or copy public records.

“No victim, police officer or not, has the absolute right to keep his or her name from being made public,” the conservative-majority court said in a joint decision.

Justice Meredith L. Sasso did not have anything to do with the ruling. It went on to say, “There is no textual basis in Marsy’s Law for the idea that victims’ names are categorically immune from disclosure.”

Still, the Supreme Court said that the Republican-controlled Legislature, which starts its yearly session in January, can pass a new law that makes it possible for more types of information to be exempt from Florida’s public records law. In the past, law enforcement has been able to get GOP politicians in Tallahassee to change the law.

“Today’s decision neither weakens these different exemptions of certain information from public disclosure nor stops the Legislature—doing the constitutional job that is its and not ours—from expanding them,” the court said.

Since voters approved the amendment, police and sheriff’s offices have regularly hidden information about crime victims, even the names of people who were in car accidents.

They have done this by citing Marsy’s Law, which was named after a young victim whose ex-boyfriend stalked and killed her. Part of the law says that families of crime victims have to be told about what’s going on in court.

In 2020, two Tallahassee police officers were each threatened by attackers and shot and killed in self-defense. This case got the question before the court. The police officers said they had been victims of a crime, and their police union sued to stop the news organizations that were covering the story from getting their names.

“Today’s decision is a win for government transparency,” said Mark Caramanica, an attorney in Tampa who works for a group of news outlets. “Common sense was used by the court to interpret Marsy’s Law, which limits overzealous applications that keep important news from the public.”

The court said that the names of the Tallahassee police officers can be made public.

It said, “Marsy’s Law does not stop the city from releasing the names of the two police officers whose behavior is in question.”

Caramanica graduated from the University of Florida and now works as an assistant for the College of Journalism and Communications at that school.

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