The Senate passed a multi-prong measure Wednesday that would bolster the rights of crime victims.
The proposal (SB 1012) would require law enforcement to inform crime victims of their right to counsel.
It would also encourage the Florida Bar to develop a list of attorneys willing to work pro bono for crime victims.
Zephyrhills Republican Sen. Danny Burgess is the bill sponsor. He also serves as a member of the Army Reserve.
“The purpose of this bill is to make sure that victims’ rights are being advocated for, protected and not overlooked,” Burgess said.
The bill contains a slew of secondary provisions. Among others, it would clarify state law by saying crime victims may “upon request” attend or be heard at a criminal proceeding. Currently, attendance is permissible “when relevant” or at a “crucial stage” so long as it “does not interfere with constitutional rights of the accused.”
Burgess described the proposal as a continuation of Marcy’s Law. Sponsored by Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book in 2019, it ushered a broad expansion of victims’ rights.
“This bill really comes from a few lanes and one being my experience in the Army as special victims counsel,” Burgess added.
The proposal advanced through the upper chamber without a single down vote in the committee process.
Lakeland Republican Rep. Colleen Burton is the companion bill sponsor (HB 697).
Lawmakers are pushing several proposals to address sexual assault, particularly in the online realm, and support victims of crimes.
Senate President Wilton Simpson described the effort as a priority among several Senators after the vote.
“It’s something that we take very serious,” Simpson said. “We can’t ever get ahead of the curve because we can never catch up with technology. But we certainly take this very serious and I’m glad they’re moving these bills over.”
If signed into law, the bill would take effect July 1.