In a significant ruling with far-reaching implications for the state of Florida, the Florida Supreme Court declared on Thursday that a constitutional amendment, known as "Marsy's Law," passed by voters in 2018, does not inherently grant crime victims an absolute right to maintain anonymity. The justices asserted that the provisions of the amendment, which allow crime victims to withhold their identities from public disclosure, directly clash with two other constitutional guarantees in Florida – the right of criminal defendants to confront their accusers and the right of the public to access and copy public records.
The conservative-majority court, in a unanimous ruling (with Justice Meredith L. Sasso not participating in the decision), clarified that "Marsy's Law guarantees to no victim – police officer or otherwise – the categorical right to withhold his or her name from disclosure." The court further emphasized that there is no textual basis in Marsy's Law to support the notion that victims' identities are inherently immune from disclosure.
However, the Florida Supreme Court acknowledged that nothing prevents the Republican-controlled Legislature from enacting a new state law that could expand the types of information exempted under Florida's public records law. Historically, GOP lawmakers in Tallahassee have been open to modifying laws in response to law enforcement requests.
Since the passage of the amendment, law enforcement agencies, including police departments and sheriff's offices, have frequently redacted information about crime victims, even in cases as simple as car accidents. Marsy's Law, named after a young victim who was stalked and murdered by her ex-boyfriend, includes provisions requiring that the families of crime victims be kept informed about official proceedings.
The case that prompted this legal question involved two Tallahassee police officers who, in 2020, were individually threatened by attackers and subsequently shot and killed these assailants in self-defense. The officers argued that they, too, were victims of a crime, and their police union filed a lawsuit to prevent the release of their names to news organizations covering the incidents.
The court's ruling clarified that Marsy's Law does not prohibit the city from disclosing the names of these two police officers involved in the case.