Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings Advocates for Amendment 6

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission voted 34-3 to place Amendment 6 on the ballot for the election. The 37-member commission, which meets every 20 years to propose changes to the Florida Constitution is unique among the states. Florida is the only state with a commission empowered to refer constitutional amendments to the ballot.

The constitutional amendment regarding the rights of crime victims, known as Marsy’s Law, would provide crime victims, their families and their lawful representatives with specific rights, including a right to due process and to be treated with fairness and respect; a right to be free from intimidation, harassment and abuse; a right to have the victim’s welfare considered when setting bail; and a right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay, among others.

Amendment 6 includes two additional provisions, one to increase the mandatory retirement age for judges and one related to judicial interpretation. I believe the victims’ rights component is absolutely crucial to our criminal-justice system and, therefore, I support Amendment 6.

The U.S. criminal-justice system is set up to give numerous rights to individuals accused and convicted of crimes, providing an excellent legal standard to ensure all defendants are treated fairly. Yet, the U.S. Constitution and 15 state constitutions do not extend equal rights to victims of the crime, leaving them powerless. I stand with nearly 60 Florida sheriffs in saying it’s time for change. It’s time for Amendment 6/Marsy’s Law for Florida.

After a crime occurs, many people question what will happen to the suspect, but very few focus on what will happen to the crime victims and their families. I’ve lost track of the number of times I have read criminals their rights; however, I cannot say the same for crime victims. Florida is one of only 15 states without clear, enforceable protections for crime victims in our state constitution and that should change.

As the sheriff for Orange County, I took an oath to protect and serve our community to the best of my ability. Despite my vigilant efforts to reduce crime rates and ensure citizens are protected, many crime victims still live in fear and are confused about their rights. My deputies and I work tirelessly to help them recover and heal, but without clear, enforceable constitutional laws and protections in place, it can be difficult to find solutions.In November, Florida voters can speak up for the crime victims who are voiceless by voting yes on Amendment 6. If passed by 60 percent of voters, Amendment 6 will provide the victims similar rights and protections that are afforded to the accused and convicted. I believe Marsy’s Law should have been placed in our constitution a long time ago, and I look forward to voting yes on 6.

Let’s make history, and let victims and their families know Florida stands with them in ensuring equal justice under the law.

Jerry L. Demings is Orange County sheriff and mayor-elect.

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