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Felony Sexual Misconduct Conviction Reversed Based on Disputed Definition of the Word “Patient”

Florida law criminalizes a variety of sexual misconduct in addition to the general crimes discussed in the criminal code. Many sexual crimes are established or exacerbated by the specific relationship between the alleged perpetrator and the victim. When someone uses a position of trust or authority to encourage or coerce a vulnerable party into sexual activities, such behavior may be punished more severely under specific criminal statutes. The Florida Court of Appeal recently addressed an appeal filed on behalf of a man who was convicted of felony sex charges after he had sexual relations with an attendee of a substance abuse treatment center where he was employed.

According to the facts discussed in the recently published appellate opinion, the defendant worked at a substance abuse and mental health treatment center where the alleged victim had checked herself in for substance abuse treatment. The defendant allegedly coerced the victim into having sexual intercourse with him in exchange for a cigarette. After the victim left the treatment center and contacted the police, the defendant was arrested and charged with felony crimes under the Florida Mental Health Act, which criminalized sexual conduct between an employee and a patient who has been held or accepted for mental health treatment at a Florida medical facility. The criminal provisions under which the defendant was charged do not rely on the lack of consent for a valid conviction.

After a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of the charges against him and sentenced him to over five years in state prison. The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the statute under which he was charged defined the term “patient” in a way that was not consistent with the victim’s status at the time of the alleged misconduct. The appellant argued that a “patient,” as defined by the Mental Health Act, was a person admitted to a facility for a mental health condition. Because the alleged victim was admitted only for substance abuse treatment, the defendant argued that his conviction under the law was not valid.

The appellate court agreed with the defendant’s arguments on appeal, finding that the provisions of the Florida Mental Health Act under which the defendant was convicted contained a clear definition of the term “patient,” which required a person to be undergoing treatment for another mental disorder in addition to substance abuse in order to be protected under the Act. Because the definitions contained in the statute clearly delineated who was and was not a “patient” for purposes of determining criminal liability under the Act, the Court determined that the defendant;’s alleged conduct could not be criminalized under the existing language of the Act. As a result of the appellate court’s decision, the defendant’s conviction will be reversed, and he will not be required to complete the prison sentence.

How to Beat a Florida Sexual Misconduct Allegation

If you or someone close to you has been arrested or charged with a Florida sex crime, the statutes criminalizing your alleged conduct may have specific requirements for criminal liability to attach. Florida prosecutors notoriously overcharge defendants, and the charges they bring are often unsupported based on the facts and relevant law. If you’re being charged with a sex crime, the qualified Florida criminal defense attorneys with the Mayberry Law firm can help you to fight the charges against you. Our experienced criminal lawyers defend Floridians from a variety of sex crime charges, including sexual misconduct. Contact our office at 813-444-7435 or email me directly at to discuss your case.

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