Marsy’s Law for Florida today filed an amicus brief with the 10th Judicial Circuit in support of Polk County victim Misty Hicks, who throughout her case, has invoked the crime victims’ rights recently placed in the Florida Constitution. This is the first time Marsy’s Law for Florida has taken legal action in support of a victim.
Hicks’ case involves the prosecution for violation of a protective order. When the state entered into a plea agreement with the defendant without informing Hicks or her counsel, Hicks was denied rights to which she was entitled under the new crime victims’ rights constitutional language. The rights violated included the right to confer with the prosecution, to be present and to be heard at the plea and sentencing. Hicks promptly challenged the denial, continuing to invoke these rights. The state reacted promptly to Hick’s challenge and took proper action by allowing Hicks to be heard and negotiating an amendment to the defendant’s sentence.
While the addendum to the sentence was initially accepted by all parties and approved by the court, new defense counsel now claims the revisions to the sentence are “illegal” because the victim does not have standing in court. Hicks is once again invoking the new constitutional language which confirms she does have standing. In its amicus brief, Marsy’s Law for Florida supports her claim and makes a clear case for why crime victims do have standing in court.
This case appears to represent the first time the enforcement provisions of the new constitutional language have been used to change a sentence in a criminal case to protect a crime victim’s rights
“This case is one that demonstrates Marsy’s Law for Florida in action. It is also a prime example of why it was so important to have these rights placed in the Florida Constitution – the state’s most powerful legal document – and that these rights were enforceable. When Ms. Hicks was not given an opportunity to be present or heard during the plea agreement, and she insisted those rights be provided, the state attorney’s office and the prosecutor did that which is absolutely required of the constitution by taking swift and appropriate action to remedy the denial of Ms. Hicks’ rights. Now, we are proud to stand by Ms. Hicks’ side and defend her right to have standing in her case,” said Paul Hawkes, Marsy’s Law for Florida counsel.
Noted crime victims’ rights expert, Professor Paul Cassell of the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah helped write the brief. Hawkes, in his role as counsel to Marsy’s Law for Florida, will participate in a hearing on this case on July 13 in Polk County.
Board Certified Marital and Family Law attorney, Debra Sutton, who is representing Hicks, has maintained that this case “exemplifies the balance Marsy’s Law for Florida has brought to the justice system as a whole, by its requirement to involve, consider, and hear from the victim.”
A specific set of clear, enforceable crime victims’ rights was placed in the Florida Constitution following the passage of Amendment 6 this past November. These rights were officially enacted on January 8, 2019, and are commonly referred to as Marsy’s Law for Florida rights.
For more information on Marsy’s Law for Florida, visit marsyslawforfl.com.
About Marsy’s Law
Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer. The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail. In an effort to honor his sister, Dr. Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom Corporation, has made it his mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights. He formed Marsy’s Law for All in 2009, providing expertise and resources to victims’ rights organizations nationwide.