Marsy's Law: Should it apply to officers on duty?
June 5, 2020
TALLAHASSEE, Fla (WCTV) – The
to protect the identity of a Tallahassee Police officer involved in a deadly shooting is not the only legal battle underway in Florida over whether Marsy’s Law applies to officers on duty.
A similar civil suit is pending in Jacksonville, and Marsy’s Law for Florida is now weighing in on the controversy.
A circuit judge in Tallahassee declined Thursday to issue an emergency injunction to protect the name of the officer involved in last week’s
The officer’s name has not been released by the Tallahassee Police Department, which is citing Marsy’s law, and during the hearing city attorneys were asking the judge for clarity on “the proper thing to do” given Florida’s broad public records laws.
The Tallahassee City Attorney
that without an injunction or a decision from the judge on the merits of the case, they would be releasing the officer’s name on Monday.
“The City advised the PBA that it was the City’s position that Marsy’s law did not apply to prevent disclosure,” City Attorney Cassandra Jackson said.
A lawsuit filed earlier this year in Jacksonville is also pushing for a decision from the courts on whether Marsy’s law protections for crime victims applies to police officers.
In that case, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5-30 is suing the Jacksonville/Duval County Sheriff, citing his agency’s policies on Marsy’s Law.
"Specifically, in a PowerPoint presentation drafted for Marsy’s Law training, the JSO advises its officers 'police officers cannot invoke Marsy’s Law in the course of their official duty,'" FOP attorney Phillip Vogelsang said in his request for declaratory relief.
Vogelsang says the FOP lawsuit was not filed in connection with any particular police involved shooting.
“What we asked for is relief on behalf of all our members. We filed it collectively on behalf the entire police force,” Vogelsang said.
Vogelsang says an initial hearing on the issue was delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis. Court records show the next hearing is set for September.
Marsy’s Law for Florida released a statement this week to clarify its position on the issue.
“Police officers who have become victims of crime deserve the same constitutional rights as everyone else,” said Marsy’s Law for Florida Spokesperson Jennifer Fennell, “But police officers who have committed crimes cannot hide behind Marsy’s Law.”
The statement goes on to encourage authorities to make a determination about whether an officer’s use of force was justified “as quickly as possible.”
“If a determination is made that a police officer has broken the law in the case, they become a defendant in that case and as such they automatically lose all their rights as a victim under the Marsy’s Law provision of the Florida Constitution and their name must be released,” Fennell said.