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The Florida Supreme Court sets an August hearing for a Marsy's Law case involving Tallahassee police

The back of a Tallahassee Police Department squad car
Patrick Sternad
WFSU Public Media

The Florida Supreme Court has set a date for oral arguments in a case over whether law enforcement can claim victim privacy protections while on the job. The case stems from a 2020 police shooting in Tallahassee where officers said they were victims and shouldn’t have their names released because the suspect pointed a gun at them.

The case has also driven a split in law enforcement agencies. The sheriffs of Pinellas and Volusia counties say the constitutional victim privacy protections provided by Marsy’s Law should not be applied to officers, while the sheriff of Palm Beach County says officers who end up having to shoot suspects are victims of crimes themselves and deserve privacy.

Multiple media organizations and advocacy groups have filed briefs in the case arguing that if privacy is granted to officers involved in such shootings, it could further erode public trust and allow agencies to hide potentially criminal behavior.

Florida voters added Marsy’s Law to the state’s constitution in 2018. It sought to guarantee crime victims a right to privacy, but many of its provisions were never defined and the state legislature never weighed in—leading to a patchwork of different local and state policies.

Critics of the amendment warned its language was vague and could lead to unanticipated outcomes. In 2020 those warnings came to fruition when Tallahassee police officers who shot and killed a murder suspect claimed they were victims of a crime and should not have their names released while the city of Tallahassee pushed to make the names public.

The Police Benevolent Association sued on behalf of the officers. In August 2020 a county judge ruled the officers' names should be released. An appeals court overrode that decision, sending the issue to the Florida Supreme Court. Justices will hear oral arguments in the case on August 31st at 9 a.m.

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas. She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. When she’s not working, Lynn spends her time watching sci-fi and action movies, writing her own books, going on long walks through the woods, traveling and exploring antique stores. Follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter: @HatterLynn.