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Florida lawmakers may limit treatment options for sex offenders

A sex crimes attorney might advocate for rehabilitation of convicted offenders, where possible. However, several Florida lawmakers are advocating for legislation that might make it harder for sex offenders to receive treatment at mental hospitals.

The lawmakers are state Senator Don Gaetz and Speaker of the House Will Weatherford. Both men listened to the suggestions of Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford. The sheriff is advocating for police involvement when accused or convicted sex offenders are referred to mental hospitals for treatment and possible commitment. He also wants probation to be tolled during any mental health treatment periods.

Specifically, Rutherford advised that police reports describing alleged sex offenders’ behavior on the day of their arrest should be included in any commitment evaluations. The sheriff’s motivation is to include descriptions that might not otherwise be found in court documents.

A sex crimes attorney might caution that police are not trained medical professionals, and might be offering advice based on punitive, rather than rehabilitative aims. In addition, police descriptions might not be relevant in diagnosing mental health conditions.

The sheriff also wants the right to search the homes of registered sex offenders during address verifications. Not surprisingly, he also advocates for longer prison sentences. Perhaps most telling, however, is his statement that he doesn’t believe it’s possible to change people, and that sexual predators are defined by their actions.

Needless to say, preparing a defense or negotiating for lesser sentences may become increasingly difficult in this aggressive prosecutorial environment. An attorney can help to hold prejudicial tactics at bay by sticking to the facts. However, if the laws do change to incorporate the sheriff’s suggestions, individuals defending against sex crime charges may face an uphill battle.

Source: members.jacksonville.com, “Florida lawmakers say they will get tougher on sex offenders,” Derek Gilliam, Nov. 13, 2013

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