In some instances in which a criminal defendant suffering from a mental health condition is convicted of a sex crime, rather than sentencing the defendant to incarceration, the court will involuntarily commit the defendant. A defendant that is involuntarily committed is entitled to a yearly mental health evaluation, though, and if the court finds that a defendant should be released, the involuntary commitment will end. The grounds for ending an involuntary commitment were recently discussed in a Florida case in which an appellate court overturned the lower court ruling. If you suffer from a mental health condition and are charged with a sex crime, it is wise to consult a dedicated Tampa sex crime defense attorney to discuss whether you may be able to avoid a conviction.
Facts and Procedural History of the Case
It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous counts of sexual battery and rape. Following a jury trial, the defendant was convicted and deemed a sexually violent predator. It was determined that the defendant was suffering from a mental health condition as well. Thus, he was involuntarily committed under the Florida Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act (the Act). The defendant appealed his involuntary commitment, which was affirmed by the appellate court. Pursuant to the Act, the defendant underwent an annual review of his mental health in 2019.
Allegedly, at a limited probable cause hearing, the defendant’s expert testified that it was safe to release the defendant and that he was not likely to commit acts of sexual violence. At a subsequent non-jury trial, the State’s witness testified that she examined the defendant on numerous occasions and that his mental condition had changed, and he no longer posed a risk of sexual violence. The court nonetheless continued the defendant’s commitment, finding that his condition had not changed. Thus, the defendant appealed.
Discharge from Involuntary Commitment Under Florida Law
Under the Act, when a defendant who was involuntarily committed demonstrates probable cause to warrant a release and a full trial is held, the State bears the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s mental condition remains unchanged so that it is unsafe to release the defendant into the public domain. The State must also prove that if the defendant is released from voluntary commitment, he or she will probably engage in acts of sexual violence.
Upon review of the lower court ruling, the appellate court noted that the State only presented one witness at the trial, who recommended that the defendant be released due to the fact that he no longer met the criteria for an involuntary civil commitment. The appellate court explained that under Florida law, a court could not reject unrefuted expert testimony without offering a reasonable explanation for doing so, like conflicting evidence or the impeachment of the expert. As the lower court did not demonstrate a valid reason for rejecting the State’s expert witness’s testimony, the appellate court reversed the lower court ruling.
Meet with a Seasoned Tampa Attorney
If you are a Tampa resident accused of committing a sex crime, it is advisable to contact an attorney to discuss your rights. William Hanlon of Hanlon Law is a seasoned Tampa sex crime defense attorney who will advocate aggressively on your behalf, to help you strive for the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case. You can contact Mr. Hanlon via the online form or at 813-228-7095 to set up a consultation.
Does it help me to be cooperative with the police?
No. If you’re the suspect in an investigation, nothing you offer to law enforcement is ultimately going to help your case or prevent you from getting formally charged. It can only hurt you. Before speaking to the police, it is always important to consult with an experienced criminal attorney. Many times what you tell the police officer does not end up in his report. You should remember that every law enforcement officer has an agenda, and what actually ends up in their report is often an interpretation of what you tell them. Many times that interpretation is used by the law enforcement officer to support their decision to arrest you.
If I have a warrant out for my arrest should I contact law enforcement?
Before contacting law enforcement you should always discuss the circumstances surrounding your arrest warrant with an experienced criminal attorney. We may be able to dismiss your charge and your warrant and avoid your arrest.
How do I know the lawyer I retain is doing everything possible to properly defend the allegations against me?
First, you should make sure that retain a criminal defense attorney you trust. Before you retain an attorney spend the time you feel is necessary to gain that level of trust. Second, you should keep in regular communication with your attorney to discuss the steps they are taking in order to bring about the best possible result on your case.