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Florida High Court Says Police Can't Hide Identities Under Marsy's Law

The Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Marsy’s Law — intended to protect crime victims — does not confer an unlimited right for victims to have their identities shielded from public disclosure. Two Tallahassee police officers argued their involvement in self-defense shootings rendered them crime victims entitled to Marsy’s Law protection. The court sided with news organizations seeking access to the officers’ identities, reports the Florida Phoenix. “Marsy’s Law guarantees to no victim — police officer or otherwise — the categorical right to withhold his or her name from disclosure,” said Justice John Couriel. The court said that if the legislature wants to expressly shield victims’ identities, it could enact an exception to Florida’s public-records law by a two-thirds vote.

"Our decision instead is limited to the determination that Marsy’s Law does not guarantee to crime victims a generalized right of anonymity,” Couriel wrote. The decision was unanimous. “It’s a very surprising decision — given the court’s very conservative leanings, one would have thought they it would have sided with the police,” said Bob Jarvis, a professor of constitutional law at the Nova Southeastern University. “This decision is really very nuanced,” said Bobby Block of the Florida First Amendment Foundation. “The opinion opens up the idea that if you can demonstrate clearly that you’re threatened or that you could face repercussions, then it allows for the idea that you can do that [get your identity concealed]. In the absence of that, why would you need your identity concealed?” Marsy's Law was passed in a 2018 referendum.

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