Murder witnesses can play a crucial role in identifying who has committed a murder, but their safety can also be jeopardized if it becomes known that they “snitched”.
Florida legislators are now considering a new bill that will give witnesses enhanced protection by keeping a witness’s identity confidential. The so-called “witness protection” bill is designed to put an end to a “no-snitch mentality”, a community culture fostered by the fact some witnesses may not feel safe in coming forward to say what they’ve witnessed.
HB 111 Is a Hotly Debated Piece of Witness Protection Legislation
HB 111, the proposed legislation in question, seeks to make witness identities confidential while also exempting the disclosure of witness identity in the public records for a two-year period after the crime. Critics of the bill suggest exempting witness identity from the public records could be a dangerous idea.
One such critic is Sen. Darryl Rouson, who believes that it is a dangerous idea to curtail the public’s right to know certain things that are happening in society. Despite his reservations, Sen. Rouson ultimately gave his reluctant support. Others are far more enthusiastic about the bill.
Proponents like Miami Democratic Rep. Cynthia Stafford believe the proposal could lead more witnesses to come forward who might otherwise fear retaliation for speaking out. In the process, she believes it could better help law enforcement as well.
Even so, some legislators continue to question whether the proposal will actually fulfill its intended purpose. Namely, they have reasons to believe the proposal may not actually offer witnesses with the protection it hopes to provide. The reason for this stems from the fact that a witness’s identity would still be shared with the defendant’s criminal defense lawyer, which means the identity would eventually be released once criminal proceedings get underway in court.
Sen. Jeff Clemens is just such a skeptic, and he believes this bill may give the public false hope with regards to the new bill. If the public believes their name will not come out two years, which is not precisely true, the senator worries that the bill is not being truthful with witnesses who will “put their life on the line.”
While the bill has advanced through its first Senate committee, it still must clear three more committees before being given the go ahead to become Florida law. The legal developments are worth monitoring in the coming days since this bill could have significant implications for Florida criminal defense.
If you have been accused of committing murder or any other serious Florida crime, you need a criminal defense lawyer who aggressively protects a defendant’s constitutional rights and raises strong legal defenses to any and all charges.
John F. Greene is a Florida criminal defense lawyer who represents Destin criminal defendants from his office in Destin. Additionally, he provides legal representation for defendants throughout Northwest Florida and the Emerald Coast, including Santa Rosa, Walton, Bay and Okaloosa Counties. John also represents Florida defendants in the communities of Destin, Niceville, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City and Santa Rosa Beach.
If you need a Florida criminal defense lawyer who provides criminal defendants with a strong legal defense that protects a defendant’s rights and aims to have the defendant’s charges reduced or dismissed, contact Destin defense attorney John F. Greene or call 850-424-6833.