Civil Commitment for Sexually Violent Predators in Florida

Florida law allows state authorities to involuntarily detain a person who is otherwise free if he or she has been deemed a sexually violent predator. In order to be subject to potential civil commitment under state law, a person must have a criminal history of sexually violent activity. As the Fourth District Court of Appeal recently explained, however, that history has to be based on actual criminal convictions rather than mere allegations.

justice scalesA defendant was incarcerated and set to be released from jail when state prosecutors filed a lawsuit asking a judge to tag him as a sexually violent predator and commit him to a secure treatment facility. The prosecutors alleged that he was previously convicted for two counts of lewd and lascivious acts on a minor and said he suffered from multiple personality disorder. They claimed that he was likely to commit future offenses if he was not treated and kept in long-term custody.

At trial, the defendant asked the court to bar evidence of two other instances in which he allegedly molested teenagers. He was arrested in each instance but was never charged with a crime. He also asked that the judge exclude evidence of a 2010 case in which he was charged with attempted sexual battery but found guilty of simple battery, a lesser offense. The judge declined each of the requests. Prosecutors, meanwhile, presented one witness. A psychologist described the three instances of alleged Florida sex crimes for which the defendant was never charged or convicted and concluded that he was a sexually violent predator who required commitment and treatment. The jury eventually decided that he should be involuntarily detained and treated.

Reversing the decision on appeal, the Fourth District said the trial judge shouldn’t have allowed the jury to consider the alleged crimes for which he wasn’t charged and the sexual battery charge on which he was not convicted.

The court noted that the defendant never admitted committing any of the crimes. It also said that state prosecutors specifically decided not to prosecute the defendant for the first two crimes. With respect to the third crime, the court said there were plenty of reasons why the jury in that case may have moved to convict the defendant of battery instead of sexual battery. “The jury hearing the criminal case against appellant obviously did not find the appellant guilty of any sexual crime,” the Fourth District said.

As a result, the court reversed the decision and sent the case back to the judge for a new trial.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime in the state of Florida, it is essential that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced lawyer. St. Petersburg sex crime attorney Will Hanlon is a seasoned lawyer who fights aggressively on behalf of clients charged with a wide range of offenses. Call our offices at (727) 897-5413 or contact us online to speak with Mr. Hanlon about your case.

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