Imposition of Probation Conditions Requiring Sex Offender Treatment

Villanueva v. State, 41 Fla. L. Weekly 319 (2016)

Florida Supreme Court rules that probation condition requirement that defendant attend sex offender therapy was invalid because it did not bear a “reasonable relation” to rehabilitation where defendant was charged with lewd and lascivious molestation but convicted of misdemeanor battery.

Background: Villanueva was charged with one count of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child older than 12 but less than 16 years old. The victim was Villanueva’s daughter, who testified that Villanueva touched her breast and buttocks on three separate occasions. The jury acquitted Villanueva of lewd and lascivious molestation, but found him guilty of a lesser included offense of misdemeanor battery. The trial judge sentenced Villanueva to 90 days in jail followed by one year of probation. A special condition of the probation was a requirement that Villanueva participate in sex offender therapy pursuant to a Florida statute. That statute set probation standards including sex offender treatment for certain enumerated offenses, which included the charge of lewd and lascivious molestation, but not misdemeanor battery. Villanueva appealed, raising the issue of whether sex offender therapy was restricted by statute to only the enumerated offenses and whether the imposition the condition in this case comports with probation standards announced by the Florida Supreme Court in Biller. The district court upheld the sex offender treatment imposed by the trial court.

Holding: The Florida Supreme Court ruled that sex offender treatment was not limited to certain enumerated offenses, overruling a lower court decision in Arias v. State, 65 So. 3d 104 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2011). The court also ruled that the imposition of sex offender treatment in the present case was invalid under Biller, because the condition did not rationally relate to future criminality.

Notable Point:

Rational relation to future criminality: The court explained that Villanueva’s conviction of the lesser included offense of misdemeanor battery indicated that the touching was not committed in a lewd and lascivious manner; therefore, he should not be a candidate for sex offender treatment. The court also relied on the fact that Villanueva did not have any prior convictions.

Found in DMHL Volume 35, Issue 3