The Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal recently ordered that a sex offender's probation be reinstated. What that means is that the offender will be placed back on probation, and she typically must continue to abide by the terms and conditions applicable to the original probation.
In this case, the offender was a former Florida high school teacher who had been sentenced to 5 years in prison after being found guilty on 16 counts of sex crimes. At trial, she had pleaded guilty to charges of having sex with a 14-year-old boy who was a student at the school where she worked.
However, the woman did not serve 5 years in prison. Rather, she served about two and one-half years of house arrest before being placed on sex-offender probation. That probation was originally scheduled until November, 2015, but a judge ended it last September.
Prosecutors, perhaps seeking to set an example of aggressive enforcement, appealed the ruling and requested that the woman's probation be reinstated. The appeals court agreed, based on its recent decision. Now, the woman may be considering an appeal to the Florida Supreme Court.
Publicity and social stigma often surround defendants charged with sex crimes. However, that media coverage does little to ensure that prosecutors won't be overzealous and that any investigations won't be one-sided. In this case, although the woman's sentence could have been worse, some may question whether prosecutors were excessive in seeking her probation reinstatement.
For example, the woman is the mother of twins, and the lower court judge may have considered that mitigating factor in ending the woman's probation. In addition, one policy rationale behind imprisonment is rehabilitation, and the lower judge may have found that purpose achieved in the woman's case.
One thing is clear: allegations of a sex crime carry serious consequences. A sex offender registration is typically required unless the charges are dropped or there is an acquittal. To help minimize the personal and professional damage caused by sex crime allegations, a defendant might be well advised to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Source: The Florida Times-Union, "Former Florida teacher, sex offender Debra Lafave's probation reinstated," Aug. 16, 2012
- Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Orlando Sex Crimes page.