Marsy’s Law and the Rights of Victims

Charlotte County Sheriff Bill Prummell

As of late, there has been a lot of discussion on Amendment 6, which expanded the rights of victims as set forth in Article 1, section 16 of the Florida Constitution. It established basic rights that attach at the time of the victimization.

The language in the amendment clearly indicates “every victim” is entitled to these rights. Additionally, the plain language of the constitution includes no exceptions for victims who also happen to be law enforcement officers performing official duties. The amendment was silent on the issue of law enforcement.

In fact, following the application of amendment 6, Senate Bill 1426(2019) attempted to restrict the definition of victims to exclude law enforcement and correctional officers who become crime victims while in the course and scope of their employment or official duties. This bill was indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration. Its failure indicates that as it stands today, the definition of victims as defined in Article 1 section 16 of the Florida Constitution embraces ALL VICTIMS, including Law Enforcement and Correction Officers.

In support of this interpretation, we compared the analysis of the Florida Supreme Court in State v Peraza in evaluating the language of F.S.S. 776.032(1) where such rights provided under the statute apply to Law Enforcement Officers. In its evaluation, the court noted in part that when the language of a statute is clear and unambiguous and conveys a clear and definite meaning, the statute must be given its plain and obvious meaning. Here Article 1, section 16 clearly provides “all victims” and given its plain, and obvious meaning, a Law Enforcement Officers and Correction Officers are victims.

As a constitutional officer, it is my duty and responsibility to uphold the Florida Constitution as it stands. My deputies requested those rights be protected and I had no other choice than to do so, just as I would for any other citizen. 

Until we get legislative or judicial clarification, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office will apply those constitutional rights provided under Article 1 section 16 to all victims of crime who exercise those rights.

Sheriff Bill Prummell

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