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Tallahassee Democrat: Opinion: Marsy’s Law gives victims their rights

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

By: Patricia Levesque

Every day we hear the stories of those who chose to commit crimes in Florida. We know when a person is arrested, officers are required to read them the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Many of us can probably recite them: You have the right to remain silent; you have the right to an attorney…

But when a crime is committed, there is always another party – the victim. Do you know what rights they have? Currently, in Florida and many other states, victims’ rights are not clearly stated.

That is why I’m asking that voters have a chance to fix this inequity by approving Marsy’s Law.

Every 20 years, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, on which I serve, meets to examine Florida’s Constitution and make recommendations for amendments that should be included for voter consideration. This year, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco submitted Marsy’s Law to the CRC and I am proud to support his effort by being a co-sponsor.

Marsy Nicholas was a college student who was murdered in California in 1983 by her ex-boyfriend. One week later, her mother and brother, Dr. Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by Marsy’s accused murderer. Marsy’s family had not been notified that he had been released on bail, where he would remain until his conviction.

Dr. Nicholas has made it his mission to ensure victims and their families are constitutionally guaranteed rights equal to those of the accused. Marsy’s Law has already been enacted in several states.

Marsy’s Law for Florida would provide victims:

  • The right to receive information about the services available to them;
  • The right to receive notification of proceedings and major developments in the criminal case;
  • The right to receive timely notification of changes to the offender’s custodial status;
  • The right to be present at court proceedings and provide input to the prosecutor before a plea agreement is finalized;
  • The right to be heard at plea or sentencing proceedings or any processes that might result in the offender’s release; and
  • The right to restitution.

These are all common-sense measures that any of us would want if we or our loved ones were the victim of a crime. Marsy’s Law ensures those rights are given equal weight by enumerating them in the Constitution.

I hope my fellow CRC commissioners will join me in recommending Marsy’s Law be placed on the 2018 general election ballot for the benefit of victims who have been voiceless for too long.

Patricia Levesque is the executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future and is a member of the 2017-2018 Constitution Revision Commission.

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