The Jimmy Ryce Act is intended to provide a civil commitment procedure for the long term treatment of sexually violent predators. The Act usually comes into play after a defendant has served their prison sentence. The treatment the Act is referring to is meant to address the defendant’s mental abnormality or personality. The Department of Children and Families administers the “treatment” and the defendant will not be released until the person is deemed safe to return to the community. The Act addresses the situation concerning a small but extremely dangerous number of sexually violent predators.
The way it works is that when it appears someone meets this criteria, the State Attorney will be notified of the upcoming release of the inmate, (at least 180 days prior to release). The State Attorney may then file a petition with the circuit court, thereby activating the law so to speak. The court will then make a decision as to whether or not probable causes exists that the person is in fact a sexually violent predator. This is a non-adversarial determination, which means the person does not get a chance to refute or have a hearing. The person will then be transported to a secure facility for a professional evaluation. Within 30 days, the court shall conduct a trial by 6 member jury to determine whether the person is a sexually violent offender.
The person does have a right to counsel (an attorney) at this hearing!
To civilly commit someone, the jury must find “clear and convincing evidence” that the person (1) has been convicted of a 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. Florida Statute § 394.912(10). The person may be held until they are determined to be safe at large and they will have an annual evaluation of his or her mental condition.
Note: This type of involuntary commitment is NOT considered to be continued punishment for the criminal offense and thus it does not violate an offender’s due process right to specific performance of a plea agreement under the current law. State v. McFarland, 844 So.2d 957 (Fla. 4d. DCA 2003).