gavel_2.jpgTALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ An appeal court has ordered a sex offender released from involuntary civil commitment, where he was held for nine years without a hearing.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal on Monday granted the order sought by Brian Taylor who completed a 15-year sentence for armed sexual battery in May 2002.

Sex offenders can be detained in civil commitment after finishing their sentences. But a petition must be filed while still in custody, and a hearing must be held within 30 days.

The appeal panel ruled Taylor was no longer in custody last year when the state filed a new petition and dropped its appeal of a judge's decision dismissing the first one.

The judge ruled Taylor's hearing had been improperly delayed past the 30-day limit.