A Closer Look at Amendment 6, Marsy’s Law

Marsy’s law is being pitched as a kind of “victim’s rights” legislation and while everyone can agree that victims of violent crimes deserve rights, no one is quite sure what that piece of legislation would entail. Proponents of the measure are seeking to get the legislation passed as constitutional amendments in all 50 states and then put an amendment in the U.S. Constitution. There’s only one problem with that. Most of the rights that this piece of legislation would introduce already exist. So why the push to enshrine these rights in the U.S. Constitution?

What are Rights?

The rights of suspects and those accused of crimes are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution because they protect U.S. citizens from the government. Rights generally work that way; they work functionally as prohibitions on the government. For instance, the Fourth Amendment protects you from illegal searches and seizures while the Fifth Amendment protects you from being a witness against yourself and being tried twice for the same crime. The Sixth Amendment ensures that those who are charged with crimes by the government of due process, a fair trial, and an impartial jury.

The rights ensure that if the government accuses you of a crime, it must go through the process of charging you and then giving you a fair trial by a jury of your peers. It prevents the government from invading your privacy by conducting illegal searches or seizing your property without due cause. The beautiful thing about the Bill of Rights is that it protects you from the government. It places prohibitions on what the government is allowed to do. It acts as a buffer between you and tyranny.

What are Victim’s Rights?

Ostensibly, victim’s rights define certain entitlements that victims and family members have in relation to those who are accused of crimes against them and their family members. These include:

  • Rights to be notified of a parole hearing;
  • Rights to be notified if the convicted is released;
  • And rights to be heard at sentencing.

These are great right? That’s why they’re already included in Florida’s Constitution. There is, however, one caveat: The victim’s rights may not infringe on those of the accused. Amendment 6 would rescind that along with making it more difficult for a convicted criminal to get an appeal. In other words, it could be interpreted to erode due process of the already existing system that we have.

Another problematic issue is that the “victim” label that triggers “victim’s right” is applied before the trial has taken place. Again, this erodes due process.

However, those who advocate for victims’ rights note that the accused has “more rights” than the victims. That is, in fact, not true. The victim and the accused have the exact same rights under the U.S. Constitution as every other American. This misguided, albeit sympathetic, appeal has the power to substantially change the rights of all Americans under the law.

Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve been charged with a crime, you still have a right to due process. Contact the Skier Law Firm P.A. in West Palm Beach to schedule an appointment.

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