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Jax Daily Record Monday, Feb. 12, 201806:10 AM EST

Commission considering expanding rights of crime victims

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Proposed amendment to state constitution could affect court procedures.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission narrowed a pool of 883 constitutional amendments proposed by the public and commissioners to a list of 37 that are being further evaluated.

One of the proposals would expand the rights of crime victims to ensure that their rights and interests are protected by the state constitution  “in a manner no less vigorous” than protections already afforded to criminal defendants and juvenile delinquents.

Under Proposal 96, “victim” would be defined as a person who suffers direct or threatened physical, psychological or financial harm as result of the commission or attempted commission of a crime or delinquent act or against whom the crime or delinquent act is committed.

The term would include a victim’s lawful representative, the parent or guardian of a minor, or the relatives of a homicide victim.

The proposed amendment is sponsored by commissioner Tim Cerio, a Tallahassee attorney and former general counsel to Gov. Rick Scott.

The proposal is co-sponsored by Foundation for Excellence in Education CEO Patricia Levesque; Darlene Jordan, executive director of the Gerald R. Jordan Foundation and a member of the board of governors of the state university system; attorney Fred Karlinsky, co-chair of Greenberg Traurig’s Insurance Regulatory and Transaction Practice Group; and state Rep. Jeanette Nunez from Miami-Dade County.

The proposal would add to Section 16 of Article 1 of the state constitution the right of a victim to be reasonably protected from the accused and their family’s safety considered when setting bail or other pretrial release conditions.

Also added would be the right to privacy, including the right to refuse an interview, deposition or other discovery request by the defense and to set reasonable conditions on the conduct of interaction to which the victim consents.

A victim would have the right to confer with the state attorney concerning any plea agreement, pretrial diversion program, sentencing or any other disposition of the case.

The proposal also would put into the state constitution time limits on court proceedings:

• The state attorney may file a good faith demand for a speedy trial and the trial court shall hold a hearing within five days to schedule a trial within 15 days, unless the trial judge enters an order with written findings of fact justifying a trial date more than 15 days after the hearing.

• All state-level appeals and collateral attacks on any judgment would be required to be complete within two years from the date of appeal on noncriminal cases and within five years in capital cases.

• Each year, the chief judge of any district court of appeal or the chief justice of the state Supreme Court would be required to report on a case-by-case basis to the speaker of the House of Representatives and president of the Senate all cases where the court was unable to meet the deadlines and the circumstances causing the delay.

The text of the proposal is available  at flcrc.gov along with meeting schedules.

The proposed amendment is subject to further review by the commission and would have to be approved by at least 22 of the 37 members before being included as a proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

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