The Undercover Witness
Written by Moses & Rooth Attorneys at Law on November 16, 2015
Many criminal law movies and TV shows feature a witness that cannot be found or a witness that all of a sudden has no idea what happened in a felony case. In these situations a person questions whether or not the witness has been threatened to not testify. A proposed law in the State of Florida may prevent this from happening in the future and subsequently encourage more witnesses to come forward. This week, a state representative in Tampa submitted a bill that would protect witnesses to a felony from having their identities released to the public. From a defense side, if the law is passed, the hope is that it will prevent the wrong person from being charged and convicted of a crime he or she did not commit.
The Proposed Bill
Under the bill, any information that would help identify the witness would be prohibited from being released to the public. This may include the witness’s name, address, or physical features. This information could not even be release to the media. However, it is important to note that this information will not always remain a secret. The length of the protection would last until the prosecution has presented their case or the statute of limitations of a crime has expired.
If the bill becomes a law, this protection would become an exemption under the Florida Public Records Law. Currently, Florida’s Public Records Law only provides protection for witnesses regarding certain information that will be used at trial that is defamatory to the witness’ name or would have a negative effect on a witness’ safety. This part of the law is also applicable when a victim is involved.
The Purpose of the Bill
State Representative Narain proposed the bill because of the need to protect witnesses who have information to provide about a particular felony. In many areas throughout the country there is a stigma that is attached to a witness who comes forward to report information about a crime. They are seen as tattle tales or snitches and can be shunned from their communities. There is also a fear to come forward due to a potential threat or harm that might come as a result. A lack of witnesses is not only a disadvantage to a prosecutor but also to a defendant who was falsely accused of a crime. This law could potentially protect those charged who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Find Your Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
If you have been charged with a crime in the State of Florida, you should hire an attorney who has a solid record. Our attorneys at Moses and Rooth have experience working with witnesses as well as the resources to find witnesses who may be difficult to track down. If you have any questions regarding the charges you are facing, you should not think twice about contacting our firm to schedule your free consultation.