In a recent op-ed in the Northwest Florida Daily News, former judge Representative Patt Maney outlined the many positive benefits Marsy’s Law for Florida has provided victims of crime since it was placed in the state constitution in 2018.
One of the Marsy’s Law for Florida rights Rep. Maney addressed in his opinion piece was the right to keep personally identifiable information confidential. From his viewpoint having been behind the bench, this is one of the most important rights because it offers victims a peace of mind they did not have before and helps them feel protected from further victimization.
Rep. Maney also discussed the importance of Florida crime victims knowing that these rights are available to them and that victims’ rights are implemented consistently across the state.
Giving victims a voice and a place in the judicial process is necessary because as Rep. Maney says, “it’s critical that victims know they aren’t just a number in a massive bureaucracy, but that their stories matter and that they deserve justice.
Read the full opinion piece below.
Marsy’s Law gives victims of crime a voice | Guest View
By Patt Maney | Guest Columnist
In 2018, a supermajority of Floridians voted in favor of Marsy’s Law for Florida, which provides clear, constitutionally enforceable rights to victims of crime.
Throughout the years as a judge, I have had a chance to hear stories of many survivors and now, as a Florida Representative, I can see the positive impact Marsy’s Law for Florida has had on survivors.
Victims’ rights were, and continue to be, revolutionary for victims of crime. Marsy’s Law for Florida clearly established the right to be notified and informed of critical steps in a case. The establishment of constitutionally protected rights has made all the difference for victims who are involuntarily involved in the legal process and are also in the process of healing.
The right to be heard by judges and juries has also been crucial and, more often than not, victims who share their stories can help provide pertinent details so judges can come to a just decision that takes them into account.
Every experience is different, but as a judge, I found there was one consistent thread throughout cases: no one asks to be a victim of crime. Too often, victims are thrust into a system they don’t understand and, in the chaos of working through this system, they are also scared they will be made victims again should their personal information be released.
Victims of crime need to know that they can feel safe, and that they have the right to keep their personally identifiable information confidential. Marsy’s Law for Florida made this possible for victims and, since its passage, has provided a peace of mind that hadn’t previously been possible.
While Marsy’s Law for Florida was a necessary step in the right direction, the work is far from over. Victims of crime need to know they have rights and protections under our constitution. It’s important to our legal infrastructure that all victims know they have a role to play in the criminal justice system and that they are empowered within this system.
I ran for the Florida House because I believe Floridians should be able to depend on their government to provide the proper infrastructure that will keep them safe and secure. It’s our responsibility to ensure that our constituents know their rights. One way we can help is to create consistency across our agencies, counties and courts when it comes to victim notification.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and his team are actively working on this, and has released an updated victims’ rights brochure for all agencies that will help create consistency in the notification process and help ensure all victims know their constitutional rights under Marsy’s Law for Florida.
Uniform implementing responsibilities, costs and procedures need to be promulgated and the Florida Bar, the Florida Supreme Court and Clerks’ Corporation are working through proposals clarifying responsibilities for the various agencies involved in the pre-trial, trial and appellate process.
It’s important that every citizen know they have rights should they become victims of crime. Marsy’s Law for Florida was created to provide victims of crime with a voice in the system. It is there to empower them and is a benefit to our entire criminal justice system.
As a former judge and now as a member of the Florida House of Representatives, I will continue to support Marsy’s Law for Florida because it’s critical that victims know they aren’t just a number in a massive bureaucracy, but that their stories matter and that they deserve justice.
The author is a retired judge and current Florida Representative for District 4.