Both prosecutors and public defenders fully support the right of crime victims to be heard, to be notified and to be treated with dignity throughout criminal court proceedings. The ad campaigns for Amendment 6, Marsy's Law, are, however, misleading in that they imply that these rights do not already exist in Florida.

To the contrary, Florida was the first state in the nation to amend its Constitution to expressly give these rights to crime victims and their families, and they are already contained in both Article 1, Section 16 of the Florida Constitution and extensively outlined in Chapter 960 of Florida Statutes. These rights are honored and enforced every day in courtrooms across the state.

Currently, victims are informed of releases from custody, victim input is obtained and victim safety is considered at every stage of a proceeding, from arrest to sentencing. Proponents of Marsy’s Law — who are largely from out of state and unfamiliar with actual day-to-day practices in Florida — have not provided any data that demonstrates a widespread failure to enforce victims’ rights in our state or that justifies a need for constitutional changes. No Florida stakeholders called for this amendment, only a well-funded California lobbying group pursuing a personal and national agenda.

Amendment 6 harms the rights of the accused because it deletes current constitutional requirements that ensure that victim’s rights don’t interfere with the constitutional rights of the accused. This threatens bedrock principles of American criminal justice.

Additionally, Amendment 6 significantly changes current law providing for speedy trials by allowing victims — not the state attorney— to demand a speedy trial even when the pre-trial discovery process is not complete and by imposing arbitrary deadlines for appeals that cannot be met with existing resources. It is an unfunded mandate that will further burden an already underfunded criminal justice system. Such a “rush to judgment” prevents either side from properly investigating an allegation, which could increase the likelihood of wrongful convictions and interferes with the orderly progression of appellate processes.

Amendment 6 is also oppositional to the presumption of innocence in granting equal constitutional rights to an accuser at the time of the accusation. Whether or not there has been a victimization and, if there has been, who the perpetrator is, while sometimes apparent, is what our courts exist to determine through the due process of law.

Amendment 6 does more than just address victims' rights — it alters judicial retirement processes, and it tampers with existing established legal procedures regarding administrative actions. Voters should not have to take an all-or-nothing approach to the three distinct areas that Amendment 6 addresses, or be lured into making additional unrelated changes to our Constitution because of the emotional appeal of one subject. Bundling of topics in this fashion is simply improper and misleading, and can have unintended consequences.

Once something is placed in a Constitution it is difficult to change when it later becomes apparent that inclusion was a mistake. Other states have already had second thoughts about Marsy's Law after the same well monied outside interest groups essentially “bought it” into their constitutions. Florida would be better served by leaving our current constitutional protections for victims in place and by leaving the Legislature with the flexibility to continue to enforce victims’ rights by statute, where language can be debated and implemented much more appropriately.

Marsy's Law does little if anything to advance the laudable goal of making crime victims whole. We agree with the thoughtful analysis of the League of Women Voters — Amendment 6 should not be passed.

William Cervone is state attorney of the Eighth Judicial Circuit and Stacy Scott is public defender of the Eighth Judicial Circuit.