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Florida Today: Florida crime victims need Proposal 96 | Opinion

Thursday, February 22, 2018

By: Carole Jean Jordan

If you or someone you love becomes a victim of crime, how would you want to be treated? You would likely want to be informed of any major developments in the case, to have your opinion taken into consideration and, ultimately, to be treated with dignity and respect.

Unfortunately, Florida victims are not currently afforded these basic rights in a clear, enforceable manner in our state Constitution. That could soon change through Constitution Revision Commission Proposal 96, also known as Marsy’s Law for Florida.

Marsy’s Law for Florida would add a Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights to the state constitution. Crime victims, or their families in the event of a tragic loss of life, would be given protections such as the right to privacy, the right to information, the right to be heard, the right to be present, the right to restitution and the right to be treated with compassion. Law enforcement would notify victims of their rights just as the accused are notified of their own.

As a policy advocate at both the local, state and federal level, I firmly believe this measure is excellent public policy. There is no reason victims should not be protected under our state constitution. The proposed amendment was written in a way to ensure the accused’s rights are not weakened or changed in any way, but that victims are simply given clear constitutional standing as well.

The tragic story of how Marsy’s Law started deeply resonated with me and serves as a reminder of why this law is needed. Marsy Nicholas was a beautiful young woman attending college in California when she was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend. One week after Marsy’s murder, her mother and brother were confronted by the murderer at the grocery store. He had been released on bail, but no one notified the family. Marsy’s brother, Dr. Henry Nicholas, made it his life mission to strengthen victims’ rights laws across the country to ensure no other family would have to endure such pain.

Our state’s leaders work hard to make Florida an excellent place to start a business, raise a family and enjoy a vibrant quality of life, but when it comes to protecting crime victims our state falls short.

Florida is one of only 15 states without specific rights for crime victims listed in our Constitution. Our citizens deserve better. Florida residents should be ensured our state will protect them in the criminal justice system if they or someone they love become a victim of crime.

Many local residents voiced their support for Proposal 96 at the CRC’s public hearing in Melbourne Monday. As the CRC continues to hold public hearings throughout the state, please thank Commissioners Tim Cerio, Patricia Levesque, Darlene Jordan, Fred Karlinsky, Brecht Heuchan, Belinda Keiser, Rep. Jeanette Nuñez and Sen. Darryl Rouson for their hard work on Proposal 96 and encourage the rest of the CRC to support victims’ rights.

Carole Jean Jordan is the Indian River County Tax Collector.


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