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Changes May be Coming to Florida's Sexual Offender Treatment Program

News broke recently that a federal judge in Minnesota found that state’s sexual offender treatment program was unconstitutional. In the blistering order, the federal judge found that the sexual offender treatment program in Minnesota was an example of a civil commitment scheme that had become punitive in nature. Many of the individuals in the treatment program were detained in an institution behind barbed-wire fence long after their prison sentences had been satisfied. Despite their indefinite detention, residents in the sexual offender program were not afforded some of basic protections such as periodic reviews of their cases to determine if they still required confinement.

How Minnesota May End Up Affecting Florida

The manner in which Florida treats those convicted of sexually-motivated crimes is not that different from other states that have sexual offender treatment programs. A person who is convicted of a sexually-motivated or sexually-violent crime will usually be expected to serve a prison sentence before being considered for release on probation or parole. Prior to release from prison, however, mental health professionals may deem a person a continuing danger to others and have that person civilly committed in a sex offender treatment program. There, a state agency (not a judge) of the executive branch determines whether a patient has achieved an acceptable level of progress to be released to a halfway house or other less-restrictive environment.

What if a person never advances to such a stage where the agency believes he or she does not pose a danger to the community? Then that person can be civilly confined for the rest of that person’s life (or at least until he or she reaches an age or medical condition that makes the likelihood of the person committing another sexual-related offense very low).

The decision in Minnesota promises sweeping reforms to that state’s program, likely requiring more judicial oversight to ensure that those convicted of sexually-motivated offenses are not locked up indefinitely unless a judge determines there is evidence to suggest the need for continuing treatment. Other states that have sexual offender treatment programs will likely follow in Minnesota’s footsteps or risk the continued ire of the federal courts.

Accused of a Sex Offense? You Need Experienced Legal Counsel – Fast!

The existence of these sexual offender treatment programs should convince anyone who is charged with a sexual-related offense to retain experienced legal assistance as quickly as possible. Do not take a plea deal without first speaking with a Florida criminal defense attorney experienced in defending against sexual-related offenses. There can easily be consequences of pleading to such an offense that you may not consider, including having to register as a sex offender and possibly being civilly committed for treatment. This is true even if the crime you are convicted of does not seem particularly heinous or serious.

Florida criminal defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner has helped numerous individuals charged with sexual-related crimes and other high-level felonies. He will help you mount a vigorous defense and will ensure your rights and your future are protected. Contact his office today at (305) 670-9919 to schedule your free consultation today.

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