Marsy’s Law

Marsy’s Law: Why Florida Highway Patrol Won’t Identify Traffic Fatality Victims

In 1983, Marsy Nicholas, 21, was murdered on November 30th by her ex-boyfriend a week before she was set to graduate from the University of California at Santa Barbara. A week after her funeral, Marsy’s family was confronted by her ex-boyfriend. They had no idea he’d been released on bail.

These events prompted the founding of Marsy’s Law for All, a group of advocates dedicated to protecting the privacy of crime victims and their families. Proposition 9 (The California Victims’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008), also known as Marsy’s Law, passed in 2008.

Florida’s version of this law took effect in January 2019 after the vote passed in November 2018 by 62 percent of Florida voters.

The 6th amendment

Right now, the U.S. Constitution outlines 11 rights under the 6th amendment, one of which includes “[preventing] the disclosure of information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information of the victim.”

For example, if a pedestrian is crossing a busy intersection or walking on the side of a busy Tampa street then is suddenly struck by a car, the Florida Highway Patrol will release certain details of these accidents—such as where and when and the age and sex of the victim—but won’t release any names.

On the flip side of Marsy’s Law

According to Florida Statute §10.119.01(f):

“Each agency that maintains a public record in an electronic recordkeeping system shall provide…a copy of any public record in that system which is not exempted by law from public disclosure. An agency must provide a copy of the record in the medium requested if the agency maintains the record in that medium, and the agency may charge a fee.”

Thus, when it comes to reporting fatal car accidents in Florida, some people’s names will be left unreported unless otherwise requested, depending on which agency is making the report.

Florida law doesn’t specify if the names of crime victims are automatically withheld or if victims must make a request to remain anonymous in any reports, which means policies between agencies such as the Highway Patrol or County Sheriff’s Office can fluctuate.

Open record policies

Media outlets must make a request to Florida’s Highway Safety Department for a crash report of each incident and pay a fee of $10 for each copy. There’s no time limit as to when the Department must provide that report.

The Safety Department’s old policy withheld the names of victims until their next of kin were notified. Now, they only withhold names from accident reports or public records if the victims make a request.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Tampa Police Department will only release the names if the victim’s family waives their rights.

The St. Petersburg Police Department and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office automatically release the names of victims unless they or the victim’s family request otherwise.

The Tampa Police Department and Pasco County Sheriff’s Office are also applying Marsy’s Law to any law enforcement officers who are fatally injured during the line of duty.

If you’ve suffered the loss of someone you love in a car crash, you’re not alone. The car accident attorneys in your area can help you get the compensation you deserve to help pay for funeral costs and other accrued expenses.

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