A Jacksonville man who served his sentence after pleading guilty to sexual battery charges should be freed and the state did not file proper procedures in attempting to have him committed after his release, an appellate court ruled this month. A state law, known as the Jimmy Ryce Act, allows the state to continue to hold some sex offenders in custody even after they’ve served their sentences. But there are certain procedures that must be followed for the state to do so. In this Jacksonville Sex Crimes Case, the state did not refer the case to the Department of Children and Families before the sentence was complete, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Because that was not done in time, the court ruled the state no longer had authority over the man and could not civilly commit him, the newspaper reported.
In Jacksonville Sex Crimes cases, the state can petition for the defendant to be held involuntarily if the judge agrees the person is a sexually violent predator and has a high likelihood of reoffending if released among the general public. In this case, the state argued the man has a history of these offenses and “suffers from a mental abnormality and/or personality disorder that makes him likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility for long-term control, care and treatment,” the newspaper reported.
Civil commitment is essentially a prison where the state provides mental health treatment and warehouses sexual predators that have completed their prison sentence. They are not free to come and go as they please and periodic reviews come up to determine whether they should remain in custody. There are no other crimes for which people can continue to be held following their sentence. Convictions in Duval County Sex Crimes can ultimately be a life sentence. Once someone is convicted of or pleads guilty to a felony sex crime, the person is required to register as a sex offender. That means checking in with police at least twice a year, and reporting within 48 hours when the person moves residences. The public piece of this comes in when neighbors are notified that a sex offender has moved to the area, with the person’s name, new address and the charge that qualified the person as a sex offender. There is a stigma attached to sex crimes and, this year, the state just toughened the Jimmy Ryce law, allowing for more people to be held after prison, the newspaper reported.