Sexual Predator Designation Imposed After Sentence Completed is Upheld

– Summary by Macie Codina

On September 23, 2021, the Supreme Court of Florida considered a jurisdictional issue in which a circuit court later designated Mr. McKenzie as a sexual predator when they did not impose a sexual predator designation at sentencing and the offender had already completed his sentence. State v. McKenzie (SC19-912). 

In 2009, Brian K. McKenzie entered a no contest plea to one count of engaging in sexual activity with a child while in a position of familial or custodial authority in violation of section 794.011(8)(b), Florida Statutes (2002). Mr. McKenzie completed his six month incarceration sentence, followed by two years of sex offender community control, followed by three years of sex offender probation in 2015. In 2018, Mr. McKenzie was notified that the State had filed a notice with the original trial court to designate him as a sexual predator because his original violation of section 794.011(8)(b) was also an enumerated offense under section 775.21 which allows a convicted offender to be designated as a “sexual predator” if the felony includes a minor victim. Mr. McKenzie objected and argued that the trial court no longer had jurisdiction in his case because he had completed all the terms of his criminal sentence. The trial court concluded that section 775.21 “placed an obligation on the court to designate McKenzie as a sexual predator.” 

Mr. McKenzie appealed to the Fifth District. The Fifth District held that section 775.21 does not overcome the jurisdictional issue and the sexual predator designation can not later be imposed when the offender’s sentence has already been completed. McKenzie v. State, 272 So. 3d 808 (Fla. 5th DCA 2019). The court held the rule only applied when the offender is before the court for sentencing or when the offender committed a similar criminal sexual offense in another jurisdiction, neither of which apply to Mr. McKenzie. The Appeals court ultimately agreed that Mr. McKenzie should have been designated as a sexual predator at the time of sentencing; however, he was not and cannot be designated now as the section did not provide a “recapture” provision. The State entered a writ of certiorari to appeal to the Supreme Court of Florida. 

The Supreme Court of Florida accepted jurisdiction of the case on September 11, 2019. The Supreme Court of Florida held that Fifth District was incorrect in concluding that the statute limited the trial court’s jurisdiction to designate Mr. McKenzie as a sexual predator. First, the court agreed with the appellate court that section 775.21(4) which stated an offender “shall be designated as a sexual predator” imposed a substantive duty on the court to give a sexual predator designation to anyone who qualified under the statute. The court then had to address one critical issue: the statute did not address a case in which the offender was not designated during their sentencing; however, they still qualified for the sexual predator designation. To understand the meaning of the ambiguous statute, the court looked to the legislature’s intent and concluded that the legislature intended to create a substantive mandate to impose such designations regardless of the timing of the designation. The Supreme Court of Florida held that “the designation of a person as a sexual predator is neither a sentence or a punishment but simply a status resulting from the conviction of certain crimes” and therefore the court did not surrender its jurisdiction when Mr. McKenzie completed his sentence.