Panella Law Firm accepts cases throughout Florida.
In 1995, a nine-year-old boy was abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered in Redland, Florida. Outrage over that incident resulted in the legislature’s passing the Jimmy Ryce Involuntary Civil Commitment for Sexually Violent Predators’ Treatment and Care Act. This law allows the courts to indefinitely detain someone previously convicted of a sexually violent act under civil commitment laws. If you are convicted of a sexually violent act in Florida, you will be subject to a Jimmy Ryce hearing near the end of your sentence. Even though the law allows you to be represented by an attorney for Jimmy Ryce hearings, the best way to avoid indefinite incarceration is to avoid being convicted of this type of crime.
Most of our clients accused of sexually violent acts have never heard of Jimmy Ryce hearings. While the Jimmy Ryce Act and sex crime charges in Florida were big news in the late 90s, more than 20 years later, these regulations get little press. This means that in almost every case like this, we have to answer the question, “What is the Jimmy Ryce Act?”
Effectively, the Jimmy Ryce Act allows the state to impose a second criminal sentence after a person has completely served a sentence for a sexually violent crime. This act avoids double jeopardy protections by using civil commitment laws. Under the terms of the Jimmy Ryce Act, a court can declare that an individual who has committed a sexually violent crime has a mental derangement that would cause them to re-offend if they were released back into society. Once this judgment is made, the respondent is involuntarily committed to a mental facility for rehabilitation. This commitment has an indefinite length, and there are few options to appeal.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a sexually violent criminal offense, you should contact felony offense lawyers at the Panella Law Firm immediately. The criminal justice system is an extremely complex process, and without proper representation, you could spend years, decades, or even the rest of your life incarcerated.
Jimmy Ryce cases are even more dangerous than most — even if you receive only a relatively minor sentence for a sexually violent crime, you could end up being detained indefinitely due to the follow-up civil hearing. You need attorneys who understand this danger and will work to prevent that from the moment you retain them. Attorney Michael Panella is that type of lawyer.
The best way to avoid needing an attorney for Jimmy Ryce hearings is to not get convicted of charges that allow for this kind of hearing. We will do whatever the law allows to ensure that you never end up in a Jimmy Ryce hearing.
From the moment you meet with Attorney Mike Panella and the rest of our legal team, we review every facet of your case. Were the warrants used to arrest you or search your belongings legitimate? Were you properly arrested, and did you receive your Miranda warnings? Was all the evidence against you properly acquired? Are the charges filed against you appropriately based on the evidence the prosecutor has?
Depending on the answers to these questions, we may be able to petition the courts to toss out evidence or even toss out your case. There is no danger of a Jimmy Ryce hearing if you never go to prison in the first place.
As a rule of thumb, Florida prosecutors throw every charge they can think of at defendants, even if they don’t have the evidence to support the claim. Our attorneys can see through that deception and determine what, if anything, the evidence supports. But just because the evidence might support a charge, that doesn’t mean a prosecutor can convince 12 Florida citizens, and prosecutors know this. This allows room for negotiation.
Our team will focus on negotiating down to charges that minimize your prison time and (most importantly) not allow the state to institute Jimmy Ryce hearings near the end of your sentence. Even if two charges result in the same amount of prison time, one can allow for Jimmy Ryce hearings while another may not. The latter is always better, and we will fight for that.
If all else fails, our attorneys have plenty of trial experience and will fight zealously for you throughout the trial and through any appeals. There is no way to promise results once a trial begins, but we have an excellent record and never quit fighting until every option is exhausted. If you are found guilty at a trial, our attorneys have experience with Jimmy Ryce hearings and will fight to ensure that you aren’t civilly committed after serving your criminal sentence.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees due process for all citizens and doesn’t allow for double jeopardy. Unfortunately, Florida law bypasses those protections by using a civil commitment to trample on the rights of people convicted of crimes. Attorney Michael Panella can’t change the law, but he can fight to ensure that your rights aren’t violated. Before opening his law firm, he spent years serving as a public defender, helping defend the rights of hundreds of people just like you. He was an ardent defender of those in need and never lost a case at trial.
That determination to help others hasn’t changed since he created the Panella Law Firm. He continues to devote his time and effort to clients to ensure they get the best possible outcome in every case. And he isn’t the only one. Every attorney at the Panella Law Firm is dedicated to protecting the rights of clients and ensuring that they are treated fairly by the court system.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Florida, you need a law firm that understands the law, can practice anywhere in Florida, and will never back down until you get the best possible outcome for your case. The Panella Law Firm offers all of those benefits and more.
If you are like most people, your knowledge of the criminal justice system is limited to the inaccurate depictions you have seen on TV and in the movies. This means you probably have a lot of misconceptions about the law. These answers to common questions can help clear up any misconceptions you have.
Who does the Jimmy Ryce Act apply to?
According to Florida law, this act applies to sexually violent predators. This is any person who has been convicted of a sexually violent charge and who suffers a mental disorder that makes them likely to commit similar acts if not treated.
Is this law constitutional?
The Supreme Court has determined that involuntary confinement through civil commitment does not violate constitutional rights.
Will I go to jail?
Hopefully, you won’t. But sometimes, the evidence against you is so strong there is basically no way to win a case at trial. Typically, we will negotiate with prosecutors to get charges reduced and make sure you spend as little time in jail as possible, even if a not-guilty verdict isn’t possible.
If I am involuntarily committed at a Jimmy Ryce hearing, how can I get free?
There are several ways you can get free after being committed. If you complete the rehabilitation, you are no longer considered to be a threat and will be freed. Additionally, up to once a year, you can petition the courts to release you.
Am I allowed to be represented by an attorney during a Jimmy Ryce hearing?
Yes. Even though it is a civil trial rather than a criminal trial, you are guaranteed legal counsel if you want it during a Jimmy Ryce hearing. It is important to get experienced representation from a law firm like ours that is experienced with these types of cases.
If you have any other questions about your rights, our attorneys will answer them during your free consultation.
Charges for sexually violent behavior can result in indefinite incarceration in Florida. To protect yourself from this, contact the Panella Law Firm immediately if you have been charged with a sexual felony.