Florida Lawmakers Promising To Overhaul Sex Offender Laws In Response To “Sex Predators Unleashed” Investigation

In the Florida Senate and House, state legislators are promising to overhaul sex offender laws, toughening sentences for sex crimes and keeping more of the most dangerous offenders confined after their prison terms end. This promise comes in response to an investigation that found Florida has failed to stop hundreds of rapists and child molesters from attacking again, for which Senate President Don Gaetz vowed action the first week of the legislative session that begins in March. Changes under consideration include imposing mandatory minimum sentences for more sex crimes, confining more predators after their release from prison, and converting unused prison beds to expand the capacity of the state’s sex predator treatment center.

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. Named in memory of a South Florida boy who was raped and murdered, this law allows Florida to keep sex offenders locked up after they finish their prison sentences. The Jimmy Ryce law requires the state to evaluate convicted sex criminals before their release and to recommend for lockup those predators the State feels have mental disorders that make them likely to reoffend at a treatment center in Florida.

Only active since late 1998, the law applies retroactively, being created to keep individuals locked up when the State alleges the accused of having a mental abnormality or personality disorder that prohibits them from controlling their sexual behavior. State-acquired doctors are not always accurate in their assessment, so it is important to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side.

The recent “Sex Predators Unleashed” series documentary about Florida sex offender showed holes in the Jimmy Ryce law, finding hundreds of sex offenders released under the Ryce law had gone on to hurt others, including women and children, many times horrifically. Victims of the repeat offenders include a great-grandmother who was raped and shot in her own bed, and an elderly woman who was sexually assaulted and had her throat slit by a rapist who was released three months earlier.

The current state of civil commitment centers in Florida is unfortunately not the best place for someone accused of a sex crime, whether or not the convicted is actually has a sexual control issue. The Florida Civil Commitment Center (FCCC) , located in Arcadia, has been 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.

Civil commitment is indefinite, meaning that one may be confined as long as the State deems necessary, which is not always the case. Sex crimes already have harsh punishments and are prosecuted with a heavy hand, whether there is enough evidence to convict the accused or not. Now, due to this investigation’s findings, civil commitment will now be a first choice sentence and will probably be a longer sentence that may severely hinder one’s ability to fix the mistakes in one’s life if convicted of a sex crime. One should contact an experienced attorney immediately to be advised of one’s rights immediately following. Remember:

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

One needs to understand the options one has and that one has access to an experienced attorney who can help ensure one does not stagnate in of a civil commitment program. 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 lawmakers vow swift action to shield public from sex predators, Sally Kestin, Sun Sentinel

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