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svpa compendium

 

Year 2004
California Court of Appeal

People v. Calderon (B167621 / 11/16/04)
124 Cal.App.4th 80
[5.B.] A trial court properly excluded expert testimony regarding the suitability of various types of involuntary treatment at a trial under the Sexually Violent Predator Act. On appeal after his commitment under that act, the defendant argued that the trial court had improperly excluded evidence relevant to the finding that he was a danger to the health and safety of others, specifically evidence from several defense experts regarding treatment plans they had developed for the defendant, including a plan that involved placing him under conservatorship. Defendant relied on People v. Superior Court (Ghilotti) (2002) 27 Cal.4th 888, in which the Supreme Court held that a court should consider evidence regarding a defendant’s amenability to voluntary treatment in assessing future dangerousness. The court of appeal here distinguished Ghilotti, because the evidence offered in this case related to involuntary courses of treatment rather than voluntary treatment, and both Ghilotti and the text of the SVPA refer specifically to considerations of amenability to voluntary treatment. Further, conservatorship under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act is not necessarily an appropriate alternative to SVPA commitment, and the proferred evidence was likely to have confused the jury about its alternatives. The court further held that the court did not err in failing to offer a sua sponte instruction asking the jury to consider whether custody in a secure facility was necessary to ensure that defendant did not pose a danger to others, because defendant failed to provide positive evidence as to his amenability to voluntary treatment. Finally, the court rejected defendant’s arguments that the SVPA violated the ex post facto and equal protection clauses of the United States Constitution.

 

In re Calhoun (B159949 / 8/31/04)
121 Cal.App.4th 1315 (rehrg. den. 9/20/04)
[1.] A sexually violent predator (SVP) can be compelled to take antipsychotic medication in a nonemergency situation only if a court, at the time the SVP is committed or recommitted, or in a separate proceeding, either finds that the SVP is incompetent or incapable of making decisions about his medical treatment, or that the SVP is dangerous within the meaning of section 5300. The rights of an SVP to refuse medication can also be limited by DMH regulations necessary to provide security for inpatient facilities. Otherwise SVPs have the same right to refuse antipsychotic drugs as do MDOs, under the Supreme Court's ruling in In re Qawi.

 

People v. Calhoun (A101034 / 5/11/04)
118 Cal.App.4th 519 (Rev. denied 8/25/04)
[3.] Appellant appealed from a judgment committing him to Atascadero as a sexually violent predator (SVP). At his jury trial, the trial court ruled that a commitment proceeding under the SVP Act was a civil proceeding, and therefore appellant was entitled to only six peremptory challenges pursuant to subdivision (c) of section 231 of the Code of Civil Procedure. On appeal, appellant contended that the court should have instead applied subdivision (a) because an SVP proceeding is more like a criminal case than a civil case, and that due process and equal protection require that he be allowed the same number of peremptories as in a criminal case. The appellate court rejected his argument. A proceeding under the SVP Act is a special civil proceeding and therefore appellant was entitled to six peremptory challenges under section 231, subdivision (c). Further, an SVP and a criminal defendant are not similarly situated and neither equal protection nor due process principles compel an equal number of peremptory challenges.

 

People v. Sumahit (C043152 / 3/29/04)
117 Cal.App.4th 197
[3.C.1.] In his third recommitment proceeding under the Sexually Violent Predators Act (SVPA), appellant was found to be a SVP and was committed to the Department of Mental Health (DMH) for two more years. On appeal, he claimed that the evidence was insufficient to support the order of commitment because the state failed to show that he currently suffered from a mental disorder which prevented him from controlling his volition to commit sex offenses, and that there was no evidence he posed a threat to commit a sexually violent predatory offense within the meaning of the statute. The appellate court here rejected the argument. Both doctors who testified said that appellant currently suffered from a mental disorder which impaired his volitional capacity. The fact that there were no current offenses while appellant was hospitalized and had no access to children does not mean he was not likely to reoffend. Further, appellant refused to be interviewed by the state experts. He was therefore precluded from challenging the sufficiency of the evidence that he currently lacked the ability to control his behavior. The court further concluded that appellant's refusal of treatment foreclosed him from claiming that the application of the SVPA violates the ex post facto clause of the constitution on the ground that it is primarily "punitive" in nature.

 

In re Howard N. (F043006 / 2/17/04)
115 Cal.App.4th 1134
[1.A.] The Fifth District Court of Appeal found Welfare & Institutions Code section 1800 to be unconstitutional as a violation of the due process clause. Section 1800 provides for the extension of a CYA commitment every two years. Finding that the SVP cases had clarified the constitutional boundaries for civil commitment statutes, the court recognized that a civil commitment will be constitutional only if it is proved that the potential committee has a mental illness or abnormality that makes him or her dangerous because the mental illness or abnormality causes him or her to have serious difficulty controlling his or her behavior and that condition creates a serious and well-founded risk of reoffense. The court then held that section 1800 does not meet those requirements because it permits the filing of a petition for continued commitment when the Youth Authority Parole Board concludes it "would be physically dangerous to the public [to release the potential committee] because of the person's mental or physical deficiency, disorder, or abnormality." The statute does not require the jury to determine whether the mental illness or abnormality causes the potential committee to have serious difficulty controlling his or her behavior, nor does it require the jury to find that this loss of control results in a serious and well-founded risk of reoffense. Accordingly, the jury instructions based on the statute were deficient as well, and even if corrected, cannot be used to overcome the statutory deficiency. The errors were not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The court did not reach the equal protection claim.

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