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Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer > Blog > Criminal > Do Victims of Crimes Have the Right to Remain Anonymous?

Do Victims of Crimes Have the Right to Remain Anonymous?


Florida’s Constitution provides certain rights for victims of crimes. Under Section 16(b) of the state constitution, for example a victim has the “right to be free from intimidation, harassment, and abuse.” At the same time, the person accused of committing the crime has certain rights, such as the right to “confront at trial adverse witnesses” against them, including an alleged victim. The public also has the right, under Section 24 of the state constitution, to “inspect or copy any public record” made by a government agency.

Reconciling “Marsy’s Law” with a Defendant’s Right to Confront Their Accusers

The Florida Supreme Court recently addressed the intersection–and potential conflict–of these three rights. In City of Tallahassee v. Florida Police Benevolent Association, the issue was whether or not Section 16(b) afforded victims of crimes the right to maintain anonymity. More specifically, the two cases presented to the Court involved “victims” who were police officers.

Both cases arose from separate incidents that occurred in May 2020. In the first case, a man wielding a hunting knife rushed a Tallahassee police officer. The officer responded by shooting and killing the man. The second case took place eight days later. A man stabbed another man to death and then aimed a gun at another Tallahassee police officer. Again, the officer responded by shooting and killing the man. In both cases, a grand jury determined the officers acted lawfully in self-defense.

Media reporters then sought disclosure of the names of the two officers. The officers asserted their rights under Section 16(b), commonly known as “Marsy’s Law,” stating they were both victims of crimes, i.e., the assaults that led them to act in self-defense. More to the point, the officers maintained that Marsy’s Law prevented the city from even releasing their names or other personal identifying information to the public.

Acting on the officers’ behalf, the Florida Police Benevolent Association sued the city, seeking an injunction to prevent the disclosure of the officers’ names. A trial court declined to issue the injunction. The First District Court of Appeal reversed, however, holding that Marsy’s Law protections could extend to police officers acting in self-defense and that the constitution prevented the release of their “identity” to the public.

The Florida Supreme Court disagreed, at least on that latter point. As previously noted, Section 16(b) guarantees crime victims the right to be free from “intimidation, harassment, and abuse.” It says nothing about freedom from being identified to the public. The Supreme Court noted that other provisions of the Constitution protecting a person’s identity were made explicit. So there was no reason to “implicitly” read such a protection into Marsy’s Law. The Court added that affording such blanket anonymity to crime victims would “raise serious doubt” about how to reconcile such a right with the defendant’s own constitutional right to “confront at trial adverse witnesses.”

Contact the Joshi Law Firm Today

If you are facing serious criminal charges, it is important to assert your own constitutional rights. Our experienced Orlando criminal defense attorneys can help. Contact the Joshi Law Firm, PA, today to schedule a consultation.



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