Post Conviction and Sexually Violent Predators Unit

“Post Conviction” cases traditionally refer to cases filed under Florida Statute 3.800(a) (illegal sentencing), Florida Statute 3.801 (credit time served), Florida Statute 3.850 (ineffective assistance of counsel, newly discovered evidence, constitutional violations…), Florida Statute 3.851 (capital cases), and Florida Statute 3.853 (DNA cases). Post Conviction proceedings occur after a case has been tried/pled and upheld on appeal. Usually a defendant files a motion with the court, setting out grounds upon which he or she believes relief should be granted.  Occasionally, the initial motion is filed by an attorney. Upon court order, written responses to these motions are submitted, outlining the facts of the particular case and the relevant case law.  Often, after the State’s response, an evidentiary hearing is conducted—again, upon order of court. At such a hearing witnesses are called and legal arguments presented to the judge.

In the 20th Circuit, the State Attorney’s office established a Post Conviction unit out of an appreciation that Post Conviction cases are unique and time consuming. To help develop uniformity in responses, and insure that appropriate and lawful convictions are maintained, this unit was established to handle Post Conviction claims.

In a similar vein, the complexity of Sexually Violent Predators cases also required more individualized attention, and because of this were placed in an individual unit to insure that adequate time and resources could be devoted to these challenging matters.  SVP cases arise at the END of a defendant’s sentence, and are governed by the civil rules of procedure (but blanketed with due process protections).  The Department of Children and Families (DCF) reviews individuals about to complete their sentence who were convicted of sexual offenses.  After the review, in a limited number of cases, DCF asks two psychologists to review records and meet with certain defendants to determine whether or not they meet statutory criteria to be held in a commitment center after the conclusion of their sentence, to focus on treatment.   One essential requirement is that an individual be considered a danger to the community. After such a review, a ‘staffing’ is conducted.  When the recommendation is that an individual meets criteria and should be committed involuntarily for treatment, our office receives a report from the DCF team. A petition is then filed, asking the court to appoint counsel and set the cause for trial. Experts are hired by both sides, depositions taken, victims located. Trials, usually by jury, take between four and five days.  After successful civil commitment, a Respondent is entitled to an annual review of his status.