TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to move forward and hear a case focused on Marsy’s Law, deciding if police officers can be considered victims of crimes while performing their duties. The case comes following a conflict between the City of Tallahassee and the Florida Police Benevolent Association over protecting officer identities in cases where they use deadly force.
Marsy’s Law is a statute adopted from an amendment and ballot initiative in 2018 by Florida voters.
Under the law, formally called “Marsy’s Law Crime Victims Rights, Judicial Retirement Age, and Judicial Interpretation of Laws and Rules Amendment,” victims of crimes and their families are entitled to a right of privacy and due process.
Since its passage, some Florida law enforcement agencies have obscured the identities of police officers involved in deadly-force cases, shielding them by saying the officers themselves were victims of a crime while responding in the line of duty.
After three officer-involved shootings in 2020, the Florida Police Benevolent Association filed a lawsuit against the City of Tallahassee to shield the officers from identification, arguing that while performing their duties they were themselves victims. The City of Tallahassee disagreed and fought back in court. Multiple news organizations joined the lawsuit, arguing that the public has a right to know the identities of officers to evaluate their conduct and hold bad officers accountable.
A Leon County judge agreed and ordered the names to be released. The PBA appealed and the 1st District Court of Appeals reversed the decision in April 2021.
Proponents of Marsy’s Law being used to protect officer identities say officers aren’t prevented from being victims while acting in their official capacity. Opponents of the interpretation told 8 On Your Side in April that it takes police accountability in the wrong direction.
Facing another appeal on the 1st District’s reversal, the Florida Supreme Court has agreed to take on the case. The petitioner, in this case Tallahassee, must submit briefs on the merits of the case by Jan. 25, 2022. the 1st District Court of Appeal must submit their own records by Jan. 18, 2022.
Oral arguments in court will follow, though a specific date has not yet been set.
Depending on the outcome, the case could have implications on local law enforcement as well, including the case of the fatal officer-involved shooting of 17-year old Alexander King, wherein responding officers were not identified. In official documentation from Tarpon Springs police, officer names are blacked out, with red type reading “Redacted per Marsy’s Law.”