| Special to The News-Press
The past few years have brought many changes to our justice system, one of the most impactful being the passage of Marsy’s Law for Florida. Victims have constitutionally protected rights to notification and, importantly, now have the option to protect their personally identifiable information from being released without their consent.
Our responsibility as leaders in our communities and enforcers of the Florida Constitution is to ensure that victims are protected, while protecting the rights of those accused of a crime. In our circuit, which covers Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, and Lee Counties, that responsibility meant bolstering our existing notification standards and protecting the identity of victims from being released if they opted into the process.
Notification of victims was always a priority for our circuit. The passage of Marsy’s Law for Florida encouraged us to review our processes and further strengthen them. We ensured that we had the appropriate systems in place to notify victims of when there was a court proceeding, bond agreement, release, plea, or sentencing. We focused on making sure victims knew and understood they have a right to be present in the courtroom. Even as we worked out the best and safest way to operate the legal system during COVID-19, we fought to ensure that victims were allowed to be in the courtroom physically, via Zoom or other streaming platforms.
My office continues to work with all our judicial partners to protect a victim’s name and other information. In fact, I chaired the Florida Prosecuting Attorney’s Association work group on Marsy’s Law for best practices in implementing and complying with Marsy’s Law rights in Florida.
Together with stakeholders, we made sure to implement privacy provisions quickly and correctly. Victims of crime and their families have increased protections thanks to this teamwork. Knowing that their personal information will be better protected from the public, media, and others who don’t have an automatic right to know who they are and how they can be found, makes a big difference and helps victims and their families feel safe and secure. Many victims are already grappling with the fear that comes from a traumatic event. Better protecting their personally identifiable information gives them some peace of mind and lessens the additional fear that their personal information will be used to harass them or repeatedly victimize them. It helps preserve their dignity and gives them a sense of empowerment.
By working together and following the guidelines set forth in Florida’s Constitution, our circuit has been able to increase protection for victims and their families. That has always been the mission of Marsy’s Law for Florida and will continue to be the mission of my office.
Amira Fox is the State Attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit of Florida covering the Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties.