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Civil commitment: Another measure of control for sex offenders

We have discussed the many ways a person's life can be affected after being convicted of a sexually-related crime. Any criminal conviction can be devastating and significantly upset a person's family, career and future, but conviction of a sex offense can result in additional measures that can seem extraneous.

For instance, convicted sex offenders can be required to register as such with the state. They can be prohibited from holding certain jobs and living in certain areas. Involuntary Inpatient Placement in mental health treatment facility could also be ordered. This last measure of control is allowed under the terms of the Baker Act and is referred to in some areas as civil commitment.

After someone has completed a jail or prison sentence, Florida's Baker Act allows for civil commitment if there is reason to believe that he or she has a mental defect or disease that can be treated. This period of confinement in a facility could last a matter of hours or years, depending on the results of psychiatric exams and is based on the opinions of psychiatrists. 

Florida statutes allow sexually violent predators to be involuntarily committed, even if that person shows no indication of the mental defect or disorder that could make them eligible for commitment under the terms of the Baker Act.

Sex offenders are viewed in an aggressively negative light; many people believe that certain actions of sexual misconduct are the result of a mental defect so it is not unusual for a person convicted of a sex crime to be examined against their consent prior to being allowed back into the community.

Some people argue that civil commitment is a just another way of punishing people even after they have served their sentences. Others argue that commitment is an effective way of treating people with mental health problems that could make them a danger to themselves or others.

No matter where people stand on the issue, the fact is that the penalties of a sex offense do not end when a person is released from jail. This can be crucial for people to remember if they or a loved one is facing allegations of a sex crime. The consequences of a conviction can be devastating. Avoiding or minimizing these penalties by defending against charges can be essential to protecting a person's future.

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