Florida Court Rules Civil Commitment for Sex Offender is Not a Punishment

In many instances in which a person is charged with a sex crime, the person will choose to enter into a plea agreement rather than proceed to trial. Under the terms of a plea agreement, the defendant will either enter a guilty plea or plea of no contest to the charged offenses in exchange for a lesser sentence. In a recent case arising out of the District Court of Appeals of Florida, First District, the court discussed whether the State’s involuntary commitment for sex offender treatment of a defendant who was convicted of sexual battery violated the plea agreement. If you are faced with charges of sexual battery it is critical to retain a proficient St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney to help you determine the best manner to proceed in your case.

Procedural Background of the Case

Reportedly, in 2002, the defendant was charged with sexual battery. He entered into a plea agreement by which he was convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment followed by five years of sex offender probation. Following his release from prison in 2009, he was transferred to a Civil Commitment Center under the direction of the Department of Children and Families. The defendant then admitted to violating his probation in 2013 and was sentenced to twenty-five years imprisonment. The defendant appealed, arguing that his civil commitment was an enhancement to his sentence and therefore violated both his plea agreement and double jeopardy. Additionally, he argued that as he remained confined his probation never began and the State, therefore, had no right to revoke his probation.

Civil Commitment of Sex Offenders

On appeal, the court affirmed the revocation of the defendant’s probation. The court stated that under Florida law, involuntary commitment of a person convicted of a sex crime is a civil commitment and not a punishment. Therefore, a plea agreement for imprisonment followed by probation is not violated if the defendant is committed to a sex offender facility following his or her imprisonment. The court explained that the Florida Supreme Court explicitly rejected the argument that a civil commitment was an additional term of probation.

Further, the court noted that because the defendant’s involuntary commitment was a civil proceeding and not a criminal punishment or sentence, it did not constitute an increase in his sentence, and did not violate double jeopardy. Lastly, the court explained that the terms of the defendant’s plea agreement stated that his probation would begin immediately after his release from incarceration. Thus, the defendant was on probation during his civil commitment, and the State acted properly in revoking the defendant’s probation due to his admitted violation.

Confer with a Zealous Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are a resident of St. Petersburg charged with sexual battery or any other sex crime it is essential to speak with a St. Petersburg sex crime defense attorney regarding your charges and your available defenses. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is an experienced criminal defense attorney who will work diligently to help you seek a favorable result under the facts of your case. Mr. Hanlon can be contacted through the form online or at 727-897-5413 to schedule a conference regarding your charges.


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