Florida Supreme Court: Sex Offenders Entitled to Commitment Trials
By N. Ryan LaBar | Criminal Defense Attorney
In Florida, a conviction for a sex crime is very serious. Unlike other crimes, where a person serves their time in prison is released; a sex offender may never be released.
The Jimmy Ryce Act
Since 1999, the Jimmy Ryce Act has allowed Florida to detain sexual offenders after their prison sentences have been completed. Under the law - which was named after a nine-year-old boy who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by Juan Carlos Chavez in 1995 - individuals convicted of internet sex crimes and other sex offenses are evaluated by the state attorneys, the Florida Department of Corrections and the Department of Children and Family Services to determine if they are still a threat to the community. If experts believe that the individuals are likely to re-offend, there will be civil commitment proceedings and the offenders will be ordered to undergo treatment.
In many cases, these offenders have fallen through the cracks of the system - which has led the Florida Supreme Court to address the rights of detainees who have completed their prison sentences, but have not yet gone through the commitment proceedings.
Unlimited Detention Denies Sex Offenders Due Process
The Supreme Court heard the case of Ronald Morel, who was detained in the Florida Commitment Center in Arcadia for ten years - after serving ten years in prison for sexual battery - without going through a civil commitment trial. The court found that, because Morel himself decided to delay his commitment case for "tactical reasons," the lengthy detainment did not violate his rights.
But, in the concurring opinion, Justice Barbara Pariente said that keeping these individuals locked up for so long without a commitment trial should not become the norm and the process needs to be refined in order to work.
"Going forward, we cannot and should not tolerate inordinate delays in bringing Jimmy Ryce respondents to trial when, during that delay, the respondent remains in legal limbo as a precommitted detainee - even where the respondent agrees with or asks for the delay," Pariente wrote in the opinion. "Keeping an individual detained for years and years without ever bringing him or her to trial offends basic notions of due process. We would not tolerate such delay in a criminal case, and we should not tolerate it in a Jimmy Ryce case. Both the Legislature and this court have made clear that these trials should occur expeditiously."
Pariente added that, in order to get timely resolutions to Jimmy Ryce cases, courts should regularly schedule hearings for these convicts.
An Aggressive Sex Crimes Defense Attorney is Critical to Your Case
In order to protect your freedom, you need help to preserve your rights.
If you are being investigated for or have already been charged with a sex crimes, it is critical you hire an experienced Orlando defense firm as soon as possible. Even at the early stage of an investigation, it is important to have the guidance of legal counsel. Please call us today at 1-866-680-4LAW for a free initial consultation. You may also fill out our online form located at the top of this page and our highly experienced sex crimes defense attorney in Orlando will contact you shortly. We respect your privacy and will keep all your information confidential.