The public defender also represents persons facing civil commitment as “sexually violent predators” under Chapter 394 of the Florida Statutes. The concept of committing someone after their prison sentence has expired is a new and troubling use of civil commitment laws. These cases have spawned a host of legal issues.
In some of these cases, the state has filed petitions for commitment, thereby depriving these persons of their liberty, even though the state’s own team charged with making these determinations has not agreed that these persons should be committed. we opposed this practice and the appellate court ruled that it was illegal. Harden v. State, 932 So. 2d 1152 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006). We have also litigated pretrial discovery issues caused by the prosecutor’s interference with the team’s decision. State v. Donaldson, 763 So. 2d 1252 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000).
We have litigated the question to whom does the statute apply. Ward v. State, 936 So. 2d 1143 (Fla. 3d DCA) rev. granted 939 So. 2d. 96 (Fla. 2006); Washington v. State, 866 So. 2d 725 (Fla. 3d DCA 2004); State v. Siddal, 772 So. 2d 555 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000). We have maintained that some of these commitments violate plea agreements calling for out-patient sexual offender treatment while on probation. Murray v. Regier, 872 So. 2d 217 (Fla. 2002); Ortega-Mantilla v. State, 898 So. 2d 1164 (Fla. 3d DCA 2005); Acosta v. State, 784 So. 2d 1137 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000); Murray v. Kearney, 770 So. 2d 273 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000).
These civil commitment cases often involve psychiatrists relying on information from cases or arrests from the distant past. The accuracy of those records, many of which were never subject to cross-examination in court, is a serious problem that we litigated vigorously. Pesci v. State, 32 Fla. L. Weekly D1721 (Fla. 3d DCA July 18, 2007), available at 2007 WL 2043423. We have also challenged the state’s burden of proof in these cases. State v. Bryant, 901 So. 2d 381 (Fla. 3d DCA 2005).
In specific cases, we have also challenged the sufficiency of the state’s evidence to meet the constitutional requirements. Donaldson v. State, 888 So. 2d 107 (Fla. 3d DCA 2004). Finally, we have challenged the adequacy of the standard jury instructions, both in specific cases and when they were promulgated. Standard Jury Instructions-Criminal Cases (99-2), 777 So. 2d 366 (Fla. 2000); Pearson v. State, 888 So. 2d 110 (Fla. 3d DCA 2004); Donaldson v. State, supra.