Now that Amendment 6 has passed, many are wondering what it will mean. Of course victims of violent crimes should have a voice in the legal process. That’s why several states have passed laws notifying victims and families of victims when a convicted offender is released. They were on the books long before Amendment 6 was passed. So what now? What does Amendment 6 do that we couldn’t do before?
Looking at the Provisions of Amendment 6
The first thing that Amendment 6 does is create a “bill of rights” for victims. But Florida and most other states already define victim’s rights. They basically state that victims have a right to be informed, present, and heard during the trial “at any crucial stage of a criminal proceeding” but “to the extent that their rights do not interfere with the rights of the accused.” Amendment 6 doesn’t add anything new.
Marsy’s Law, which was passed first in California and has served as the model for other states to follow, outlines 17 rights that victims have. These rights go into effect before the defendant has been convicted on any charge. Essentially, Marsy’s Law protects victims not against those who have harmed their family, but those who are charged with harming their family.
The distinction should startle you because several of these rights impede an accused person’s defense against a serious charge.
Many of the provisions of this bill are basic common sense. For instance, there is no state that allows defendants to legally intimidate victims, threaten victims, or otherwise harass them. In addition, there is no state that does not consider the possible threat to the victim or their family. Article four states that victims are protected from disclosing any “confidential” information to the defendant, their attorneys, or anyone who is acting on behalf of the defendant that may reveal their location or otherwise compromise their safety. Of course, prosecutors can already block the defense from getting access to such information.
Article 5, however, takes it a step further. Victims may refuse depositions, interviews, or any other discovery at the request of the defendant’s attorney. In other words, family members of a murder victim do not have to cooperate with defense attorneys in the defense of their clients.
The rest of Marsy’s law has much to do with notifying family members about the trial and when a convicted prisoner is up for parole. Most states already do this.
The question then becomes: What will Marsy’s Law do in Florida? It’s hard to say. The law, in fact, truncates the appeals process and imposes very stiff deadlines on defense attorneys. In addition, it’s difficult to say how broadly provisions that give victims the right to refuse to cooperate with defense attorneys will be imposed. It’s hard to say what impact this will have on every American’s right to a fair trial—both the innocent and guilty.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
The Skier Law Firm P.A. in West Palm Beach helps those accused of crimes get fair trials and ensure their rights are respected by the law. If you’ve been charged with a crime, contact us today. We can help.