Monday, January 5, 2015

Burning Man

Florida wants the state to be "Scorched Earth" for sex offenders. It's the concept behind the recent "Scorched Earth" legislation passed in the wake of highly-publicized kidnapping and murder of Cherish Periwinkle in Jacksonville. Prior to that, the murder of Jimmy Ryce motivated the former laws.  Both murders were extremely disturbing.

A Sad Lot:

Sex offenders are very sad people. Their lives are so limited already. They cannot hold certain jobs ,and they cannot live in most places. We have worked with many, many people accused or convicted of sex offenses. Some people are "Registered Sex Offenses" for doing things that the law says is a sexual crime, but may just be kids being kids.

There is a lot of concern about young people becoming registered sex offenders who have no likelihood of reoffending.  But then there are people who are sick -- people who commit sexually motivated crimes and struggle every day to conform to societal appropriate behavior. For those sex offenders, conforming is simply impossible. This struggle is illustrated in the new show, The Missing on Starz. 

Offending and ReOffending:

In 2012, Lynn University conducted a study about recidivism with 500 convicted sexual offenders. 5.2% of the sample were re-arrested for a new sexual crime after five (5) years. After ten (10) years, 13.7% were rearrested for a sexual crime. One new offense, the State of Florida believes, is too many.

What Do We Do With Theses People:

For decades, Criminal Defense Attorneys and Judges have advised Defendants that, "you could be civilly committed for an indefinite period of time" when they enter a plea to more than 365 days.   If your sentence is 365 or less, you are in county jail under the supervision of local law enforcement, and previously were not exposed to civil commitment.

Under the Jimmy Ryce Act, the Department of Children and Families is tasked with evaluating offenders who are about to be released from the Department of Corrections' supervision to determine a need for civil commitment. Once you hit a year and a day, you are under the supervision of the Department of Corrections. With these new laws, one day of incarceration can lead to civil commitment for an indefinite amount of time if the State Attorneys Office "red flags" you. Recently, the first non-prison civil commitment red flag was placed on a local sex offender who committed a new petit theft, a crime that normally carries a maximum of 60 days in jail.

Finding a Balance:

It is important to note that a offender need not have committed a "sex offense." If the crime was "sexually motivated" (for example, if someone burglarized a home with the intention of raping someone, but was stopped), they too can be civilly committed. "Ryce Law" as it's called, is a large practice area, in which attorneys defend the limited constitutional rights of sex offenders who have been civilly committed and attempt to reverse the commitment. It's not something that a lot of attorneys are inclined to do, but it's important to remember that these people are still Americans and have the benefit of the Constitution.  Although our practice is dedicated to defending the rights of others, it's hard to see the righteousness in this task.

These laws do protect the community, but we are here to help the unjustly committed. If you or someone you know is wrongly civilly committed under these laws, please contact us at 904-516-5560.

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