Jimmy Ryce Act in Florida

The Jimmy Ryce Act and Involuntary Civil Commitment for Sexually Violent Predators' Treatment and Care Act, provides a civil commitment procedure for the long term treatment of sexually violent predators. Fort Lauderdale Sex Crimes Attorney Jim Weick recently explained how Florida law on involuntary commitment explains.

The Act was created so that a person classified as a sexually violent predator may be involuntarily committed to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) for treatment until the person's mental abnormality or personality disorder has changed and the person is safe to be at large.

Jimmy Ryce Involuntary Civil Commitment

Jimmy-Ryce-actThe Act addresses the situation concerning a “small but extremely dangerous number of sexually violent predators … who do not have a mental disease or defect that renders them appropriate for involuntary treatment under the Baker Act …” and who are not good candidates for treatment that would allow them to return safely to the communities after serving their criminal sentences. The Act defines operational terms such as “mental abnormality,” “sexually violent predator,” and “predatory” in the context of the procedures implemented by it. William Moore Criminal Defense is a Law Firm in Fort Lauderdale. Contact James Weick online for more information about scheduling a free consultation.

According to Sex Lawyer James Weick the Jimmy Ryce Act Must Meet Requirements:

Jimmy Ryce Act LawyerThe Jimmy Ryce Act in Florida requires the “agency with jurisdiction over a person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense” provide written notice and certain information regarding the person to a multidisciplinary team before the person's release from total confinement. The multidisciplinary team must include two licensed psychiatrists or psychologists, or one licensed psychiatrist and one licensed psychologist. After receiving the information, the multidisciplinary team must provide the state attorney a written assessment and recommendation as to whether the person meets the definition of a sexually violent predator. After receiving the written assessment and recommendation from the multidisciplinary team, the state attorney has discretion to file a petition for civil confinement with the circuit court alleging the person is a sexually violent predator. A written report of the multidisciplinary team recommending that a person is a sexually violent predator is required before the state attorney can exercise his or her discretion to file a petition for civil commitment. In other words, a positive recommendation from the multidisciplinary team that a person meets the criteria to be considered a sexually violent predator is a condition precedent to the filing of the petition for commitment by the state attorney. The recommendation of the multidisciplinary team does not, however, have to be unanimous.

Sex Offender Defense Lawyers Fight the Criteria of "Sexually Violent Predator"

Sex Offender Defense Lawyers point out that under section 394.913, when it appears that a person may meet the criteria of a “sexually violent predator,” the state attorney will be given notice of impending release of the person at least 180 days prior to the release. The state attorney's office may file a petition with the circuit court engaging the processes of the new law. When the petition is filed, the court makes a nonadversarial determination whether the petition sets forth sufficient grounds to believe that probable cause exists that the subject is a sexually violent predator. If probable cause is found, the court will have the subject taken into custody and transported to an appropriate secure facility for professional evaluation. Within 30 days of a determination of probable cause, the court shall conduct a trial (by 6–member petit jury upon demand of the person) to determine whether the person is a sexually violent predator, with the subject being entitled to assistance of counsel, including a public defender if he or she is indigent. The subject is entitled to be examined by a professional of his or her own choosing in addition to the state examination. The subject's professional will be paid by public funds if the subject is indigent. Proof must be by clear and convincing evidence that the person is a sexually violent predator. The verdict must be unanimous and any such determination (whether made by the court or the jury) may be appealed.
For someone to be civilly committed under the Ryce Act, a fact finder must determine by clear and convincing evidence that the respondent (1) has been convicted of an enumerated sexually violent offense; and (2) suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure place for long-term control, care, and treatment. The Ryce Act does not require an additional, separate finding that the offender has serious difficulty controlling behavior, as a finding that the offender lacked the ability to control behavior was implicit in the statutory definitions of “sexually violent predator,” “sexually violent offense,” “mental abnormality,” and “likely to engage in acts of sexual violence” contained in the Ryce Act and reflected in the instructions to the jury.

The Jimmy Ryce Act applies to otherwise qualified defendants who are or were in lawful custody on or after January 1, 1999, the effective date of the Act, and the Act does not apply to people who are not in this category. Probation is not “custody” within the meaning of the Act. A defendant held in county jail on a violation of probation or community control charge before supervision is revoked is in lawful custody for purposes of the Act because such custody is authorized by section 948.06(1) and Fla. R. Crim. P. 3.790(b).

There is currently a conflict among the district courts of appeal as to whether or not there is a jurisdictional “in custody” requirement for the filing of a commitment petition under the Act by the State. The First District Court of Appeal has held that while the Act clearly contemplates that a commitment petition should be filed before a person is released from total confinement, there is nothing in the Act which provides that the petition must be filed before the person's release: Rather, the Act clearly states that its time limitations are not jurisdictional and do not prevent the State from proceeding pursuant to the Act if the person is released from custody. Jurisdiction under the Act is not, therefore, conditioned on a person being “in custody” on the date the petition is filed. This view is also shared by the Fifth District. The Second District, on the other hand, has held that involuntary civil commitment proceedings may be brought only against those in custody or in total confinement at the moment the proceedings are commenced, and, that once a person has been released from custody upon expiration of his or her sentence, he or she is no longer subject to the Act, and DCF cannot then commence commitment proceedings against him or her and have him or her pulled off the street. The view of the Second District appears, however, to be inconsistent with the view of the Florida Supreme Court, which has held that the fact that an inmate was detained beyond the expiration date of his sentence and, thus, was not in lawful custody when the State filed its commitment petition under the Act did not divest the trial court of jurisdiction to adjudicate the petition.

Any person found to be a sexually violent predator is committed to the custody of DCF for control, care, and treatment until such time as the person is determined to be safe to be at large. All sexually violent predators undergo an annual examination of his or her mental condition. In addition, section 916.39 provides methods by which the subject may petition the court for a review of his or her status. Section 394.926 requires that prior to release of a committed person, DCF shall give written notice of the release of a person committed as a sexually violent predator to any victim of the person's activities or crime who is alive and whose address is known to DCF or, if the victim is deceased, to the victim's next of kin. Section 394.921 makes otherwise confidential or privileged information held by a governmental agency discloseable to the state attorney for purposes of meeting its statutory obligation under this new law.

If committed, the person thereafter has the right to additional probable cause hearings to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the person's condition has so changed that it is safe for the person to be at large and that the person will not engage in acts of sexual violence if discharged. The person has the right to be represented by counsel at the probable cause hearing, but the person is not entitled to be present. If the court determines that there is probable cause to believe it is safe to release the person, the court shall set a trial before the court on the issue. At the trial before the court, the person is entitled to be present and is entitled to the benefit of all constitutional protections afforded the person at the initial trial, except for the right to a jury. The state attorney represents the State at the hearing and has the right to have the person examined by professionals chosen by the State. At the hearing, the State bears the burden of proving, by clear and convincing evidence, that the person's mental condition remains such that it is not safe for the person to be at large and that, if released, the person is likely to engage in acts of sexual violence.Woman-Lawyer-stock-photo

The statute and the case law construing the Jimmy Ryce Act make it clear that the commitment proceedings under the Jimmy Ryce Act are civil in nature. Moreover, section 394.9155 (1) provides that the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure apply to all civil commitment proceedings for sexually violent predators unless otherwise specified. A sex offender's involuntary civil commitment as a sexually violent predator under the Act is not continued punishment for his criminal offense, and thus does not violate an offender's due process right to specific performance of his plea agreement. Any bargain a defendant may strike in a plea agreement in a criminal case has no bearing on a subsequent involuntary civil commitment for control, care, and treatment. A plea agreement, entered into prior to the passage of the Ryce Act, for prison time followed by probation is not violated when the State later initiates discretionary civil commitment proceedings under that act, and in such circumstances the State is not barred by equitable estoppel from seeking civil commitment. The State's initiation of civil commitment proceedings does not violate a prior agreement that did not mention the possibility of such proceedings. Any agreement that a defendant may strike in a plea agreement in a criminal case would have no bearing on a subsequent involuntary civil commitment for control, care, and treatment

Contact our Broward County criminal defense attorneys at The William Moore Law Firm. Our Criminal Lawyers also have Offices in Fort Lauderdale. Call to schedule an appointment.