Miami Judge Disregards Jury Decision; Confines Florida Sex Offender to Indefinite Civil Commitment

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorens disregarded Miami-Dade jurors’ decision of whether Juan F. Vega posed a danger to society if released and ordered Vega into indefinite civil confinement anyway, after completing 25 years in prison for a series of violent rapes and kidnappings. The Jurors voted to let him go, saying that Vega should not be confined to a locked-down therapy center for sexual predators. After listening to psychologists who deemed him a risk to re-offend if released, the judge said, “There is no reasonable evidence upon which a jury could rule in favor” of Vega, believing the evidence “points to but one possible conclusion: that [Vega] is a sexually violent predator.”
Vega was committed under the Jimmy Ryce Act. When one is arrested for a sex crime in Jacksonville or a crime that is alleged to be “sexually motivated”, one may be exposed to indefinite civil commitment under the Jimmy Ryce Law. Only active since late 1998, the law applies retroactively: The Jimmy Ryce Law was created to keep harmful offenders locked up when the State alleges the accused has a mental abnormality or personality disorder that prohibits them from controlling their sexual behavior, quite possibly targeting another victim or victims. Having a knowledgeable attorney on one’s side is vital because state-acquired doctors are not always accurate in their assessment of one’s ability to control one’s mental state.

The Jimmy Ryce law calls for inmates with sex offense histories to be reviewed by the Florida Department of Corrections, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF), and state attorneys to determine the level of risk for re-offense. Upon release from prison, these offenders may be subject to civil proceedings and commitment to a secure facility for treatment. The Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC) , located in Arcadia, was criticized because treatment is lacking (less than 5 hours per week), it lacks security (several incidents of murder on site, riots requiring hundreds of officers to control), there is no method of restoring civil liberties (the program has no release stage), being underfunded, understaffed and located in an old condemned correctional facility. One needs to make sure that one does not suffer from this program.

Civil commitment is indefinite. One should contact an experienced attorney immediately to be advised of one’s rights immediately following. Remember:

– If one has already been committed, one must attempt to prove that one has had sufficient treatment to be released.
– If one is awaiting a commitment determination trial, one must be able to prove that one is able to control one’s sexual behavior.

Civil commitment may be one of the most severe penalties for sex crimes; however, others can affect one’s future as well. An experienced attorney could minimize or avoid the possible consequences of a conviction, including:

– Sex Offender Probation
– Time in Jail or Prison
– Out Patient Group Treatment
– Polygraph Tests
– Sex Offender Registration
As good of a help as turning one’s self in is to helping one’s case progress smoothly and easily, turning one’s self in does only so much. One in a situation such as this should obtain an experienced Jacksonville sex crimes defense attorney to fight the case and ensure one’s rights, defenses, and options are known and protected. One cannot fight this battle alone. With the help of an experienced attorney, one can be sure that this mistake will be whited out of one’s life and become a thing of the past.


The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for years and are here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one require a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.

Additional Source: Florida judge’s decision in sexual predator case sparks controversyDavid Ovalle, Miami Herald