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svpa compendium

 

Year 2001
California Court of Appeal

People v. Superior Court of Santa Cruz County (H022919 (Cheek)/ H022885 (Grant), 12/21/01)
94 Cal.App.4th 980 (6 DCA)
[3.B.] In the two underlying cases, the trial court allowed depositions of several Atascadero State Hospital physicians and psychologists to be taken pursuant to subpoena in proceedings to commit defendants Cheek and Grant under the Sexually Violent Predators Act (SVPA), Welfare and Institutions Code section 6600, et seq. The Sixth District Court of Appeal granted writ review in both cases to answer a question of first impression: whether the right to civil discovery in SVPA proceedings includes the right to notice depositions? The court held that the Civil Discovery Act of 1986 (Code Civ. Proc., secs. 2016, et seq.) applies in SVPA proceedings and therefore the deposition method of discovery was available. It also held that the scope of discovery in SVPA proceedings is circumscribed by the narrow issues presented at an SVPA trial: (1) whether the person sought to be committed "has been convicted of a sexually violent offense against two or more victims" (Welf. & Inst. Code, sec. 6600, subd. (a)(1)); and (2) whether the person "has a diagnosed mental disorder that makes the person a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is likely that he or she will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior." (Welf. & Inst. Code, sec. 6600, subd. (a)(1).)

 

People v. Gordon (H021806, 9/17/01)
92 Cal.App.4th 342 (6DCA)
Subsequent history: Rev. granted 12/12/01 (S101457); case depublished/not citable; Rev. dismissed on 12/11/02, case remanded.
[1.B.] [1.D.] [1.F.] The SVPA law does not violate the state and federal guarantees of equal protection and the prohibitions against ex post facto laws and double jeopardy. [3.C.] The trial court did not err by refusing to accept a stipulation to defendant's convictions of two predicate sexually violent offenses because the testimony about the details of these offenses was highly probative of whether defendant had a diagnosed mental disorder that made him a danger to the health and safety of others in that he was likely to engage in sexually violent criminal behavior. [6.] Instruction requiring the jury to find defendant was likely to engage in sexually violent criminal behavior, instead of predatory behavior, was harmless error.

 

People v. Hardacre (B143800, 7/25/01)
90 Cal.App.4th 1392 (2DCA Div.2)
Subsequent history: Rev. denied 10/24/2001 (S100209)
[1.a.] [2.c.] The trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to appoint the defense its own expert witness at the "show cause" hearing in this SVP proceeding. After one year (of a two-year commitment), there is a mental exam and unless the defendant waives the right to petition for annual release, the court must set a "show cause" hearing to determine if there has been a change so that the defendant is no longer a danger to others. However, the mental exam showed the defendant participated only minimally in therapy, and denied he needed any treatment. Further, the ruling did not deprive the defense of due process. Finally, on this record, the court did not err in refusing to order a full hearing on the issue of whether defendant continued to meet the criteria for a SVP. (Petn. rhrg. den. 8/20/01.)

 

Cooley v. Superior Court (Edwards) (B148019, 5/31/01)
89 Cal.App.4th 785 (DCA 2, Div.5)
Subsequent history: Rev. den. 9/12/01.
[2.] [4.b.] The trial court properly held that a probable cause hearing was required where the district attorney sought to recommit appellant as a sexually violent predator (SVP). The provisions of Welfare and Institutions Code sections 6604 and 6604.1 cannot be read in the manner suggested by the prosecutor, who argued that a probable cause hearing was no longer required to extend a commitment due to the passage of urgency legislation which took effect on September 13, 2000. The amendments do not constitute a comprehensive scheme which excludes other relevant provisions of the SVP statute which mandate a probable cause hearing.

 

People v. Hubbart (H021322, 5/8/01)
88 Cal.App.4th 1202 (DCA 6)
Subsequent history: Rev. denied 8/15/2001 (S098403); Cert. denied 2/19/2002.
[1.a.] [1.b.] [1.c.] [1.f.] [5.] [6.] In this opinion, the appellate court rejects the due process and equal protection challenges to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA) not previously rejected in Hubbart v. Superior Court (1999) 19 Cal. 4th 421, ("Hubbart 1"). The court rejected arguments that the SVPA violates equal protection because: 1) its definition of mental disorder is less exacting than the definition of mental disorder contained in the Mentally Disordered Offender (MDO) law; 2) it has a lower evidentiary standard than the MDO law, the LPS Act, or the NGI scheme; 3) it fails to provide for treatment prior to the commencement of long-term commitment, in contrast to the MDO law and LPS Act; and 4) it does not provide for custody credits, unlike the MDO law and NGI scheme. The court also rejected, as was rejected in Hubbart 1, appellant's challenges based on due process, ex post facto and double jeopardy provisions. Further, the court held that although appellant was not in lawful custody when he was committed under the SVPA, he was not denied due process. The unlawful custody was the result of a good faith error, and the SVPA provided numerous procedural safeguards. The court also found no instructional error, and no error in the admission of detailed evidence of prior sexual assaults, since the probative value far outweighed any possible prejudice.

 

People v. Martinez (H021193, 4/11/01)
88 Cal.App.4th 465 (DCA 6)
Subsequent history: Rev. denied 7/25/01 (S097712)
[1.G.] [5.C.] The court rejected the claim that the prosecutor's review of defendant's psychological records concerning medication and treatment at Atascadero State Hospital (ASH) 15 years earlier, done in the course of a Sexually Violent Predator Act prosecution, violated the defendant's state constitutional right to privacy. The SVPA makes psychological records, especially those generated at ASH, relevant in determining whether a prisoner qualifies as a SVP. Defendant signed written consent forms for both evaluations of him done in the SVP initial proceedings. Thus, his expectation of privacy in them and the records relied on to perform the evaluations, was greatly reduced. Additionally, the minimal intrusion was justified by the compelling public interests behind the SVPA and the prosecutor's duty to make an independent and informed decision concerning whether to file a petition. Finally, even if a constitutional violation of the right to privacy occurred, the court rejected the claim that the error was structural and reversible per se. Here the examination of the records by the prosecutor was harmless, since the information was available in summary form in the SVP reports. The court also rejected the contention that the use of reports by his former treating psychotherapists violated the psychotherapist-patient privilege. The court also rejected that various evidence of other misconduct (including charged and uncharged offenses) constituted inadmissible hearsay. As to some of the evidence there was no objection, so the argument was waived. As to the admission of documentary evidence of a 1989 conviction for oral copulation, defendant conceded that information was properly admitted for the non-hearsay purpose of revealing the bases for the doctors' reports under the SVPA. Even if the court had considered the evidence for its truth, it was harmless error. The court would have reached the conclusion that defendant qualified as a SVP anyway.

 

People v. Superior Court (Preciado) (D036024, 3/19/01)
87 Cal.App.4th 1122 (DCA 4, Div. 1)
Subsequent history: Rev. denied 6/27/01 (S097240)
[3.a.] [4.a.] Although a petition alleging a person is a sexually violent predator (SVP) should not be filed until two psychotherapists have evaluated the person and concluded he meets the statutory criteria, the failure to do so may be cured by the People after the petition is filed. The trial court erred in dismissing the petition where it was timely filed and the required evaluations were performed prior to the end of the person's previous SVP commitment.

 

Leake v. Superior Court (C036542, 3/6/01)
87 Cal.App.4th 675 (DCA 3)
Subsequent history: Rev. denied 5/23/01 (S096822)
[3.b.] The Civil Discovery Act of 1986 applies to Sexually Violent Predator Act. The Discovery Act applies to civil proceedings and an SVPA proceeding is civil in nature. There is no statutory language exempting the SVPA from the Discovery Act. A comparison of the Mentally Disordered Offender Act (which states that the rules of criminal discovery also apply) indicates the Legislature knows how to choose other methods of discovery than the Discovery Act, but did not do so in the SVPA. The Court distinguished a case holding civil discovery did not apply in delinquency proceedings. Unlike SVPA proceedings, delinquency proceedings are quasi-criminal, and often involve a loss of freedom for much longer than the two-year commitment of the SVPA.

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