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svpa compendium

 

Year 2007
California Court of Appeal

People v. Carroll (F051709 / 12/27/07)
158 Cal.App.4th 503
[7.] The indeterminate term provisions of Welfare and Institutions Code section 6600 et seq. apply to persons that were confined as Sexually Violent Predators (SVP) for two years under the former version of section 6604. Appellant had been subjected to involuntary two-year commitments pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act and had a petition to extend his commitment pending when Senate Bill 1128 and Proposition 83 allowing for indefinite terms of commitment were passed. The court rejected appellant's argument that the law in effect at the time the petition was filed was controlling. Noting that inasmuch as the intent of the legislature in amending the statute was to continue the confinement of the SVP for an indefinite term, the statute applied to a person in appellant's position. Appellant waived his claim regarding adequacy of notice as a result of his failure to object to the amendment of the petition at trial to reflect the indeterminate commitment. Further, the claim failed on the merits because the allegations against which he needed to defend were unaffected by the amendment. Finally, there was no impermissible retrospective application because the trial and adjudication is the significant point, not the filing of the petition.

 

Bourquez v. Superior Court of Sacramento County (C055402 / 11/14/07)
156 Cal.App.4th 1275
[7.] The indeterminate term provisions of Welfare and Institutions Code section 6600 et seq. apply to persons confined as Sexually Violent Predators (SVP) for two years under the former version of section 6604. Petitioners had been subjected to involuntary two-year commitments pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act and had petitions to extend their commitments pending when Senate Bill 1128 and Proposition 83 allowing for indefinite terms of commitment were passed. The court rejected petitioner’s argument that because the new legislation failed to expressly address the individual who had previously been committed for the two-year period, the individual was not subject to the indefinite term under the amended statute. Noting that inasmuch as the intent of the legislature in amending the statute was to continue the confinement of the SVP for an indefinite term, the statute applied to a person in appellant’s position and under the statute's implied saving clause, the superior court has jurisdiction to proceed on the petitions under the new period of commitment.

 

People v. Shields (D050034 / 9/21/07)
155 Cal.App.4th 559
[7.] The indeterminate term provisions of Welfare and Institutions Code section 6604 apply to persons confined as Sexually Violent Predators (SVP) for two years under the former version of section 6604. Prior to 2006, a person deemed to be an SVP was committed for a two-year term with the prosecution required to obtain a new order determining the person to be an SVP for each successive two-year commitment. In 2006, the statute was amended to provide for an indeterminate period of confinement. The amendment did not expressly reference those individuals confined under the former two-year scheme. In 2003, appellant had been recommitted for a two-year period of confinement and in 2005, the prosecution filed another petition to extend appellant's confinement. Appellant claimed that based on the plain language of the amended statute, i.e., the failure to address the SVP who had been committed for two years, he could not be subject to an SVP petition under the amended statute. The appellate court rejected the claim, noting that inasmuch as the intent of the legislature in amending the statute was to continue the confinement of the SVP for an indefinite term, the statute applied to a person in appellant's position.

 

People v. Whaley (H030167 / 6/26/07)
152 Cal.App.4th 968
[6.]"At the outset, we address the question of whether the judicially created rule of criminal procedure established in Gainer applies in an SVPA proceeding, which is a special proceeding of a civil nature, not a criminal action. (People v. Yartz (2005) 37 Cal.4th 529, 536; People v. Superior Court (Cheek) (2001) 94 Cal.App.4th 980, 988.) However, it has been recognized that the procedures established by the SVPA "have many of the trappings of a criminal proceeding," including the requirements that "the trier of fact must find the defendant to be a sexually violent predator beyond a reasonable doubt (§ 6604), and a jury verdict must be unanimous (§ 6603, subd. (d))." (People v. Hurtado (2002) 28 Cal.4th 1179, 1192.) Because the burden of proof and the requirement of juror unanimity are the same in a criminal trial and a trial under the SVPA, we determine that the Gainer rule pertaining to the supplemental jury instruction of a deadlocked jury in a criminal case should also govern the supplemental instructions that may be given to a deadlocked jury in an SVPA trial."

 

People v. Buffington (C051988 / 6/22/07)
152 Cal.App.4th 446
[5.] The trial court's error in admitting evidence of other SVP cases in which the defense expert witness testified was not prejudicial. In appellant's SVP hearing, the defense called a psychologist to testify that in his opinion appellant was able to control his sexually dangerous behavior. In order to establish bias, the prosecutor then cross-examined the psychologist about three other SVP cases in which he had testified, and his opinion that those defendants did not qualify as SVPs either. The appellate court found that the evidence was not relevant for the prosecutor's stated purpose because the jury had no reasonable basis to reject the expert opinion's reliability. However, the court rejected appellant's argument that the error in admitting the evidence was prejudicial. While the facts of the other SVP cases were graphic, they were no more graphic than the facts of appellant's offenses. Moreover, they were not the focus of the case against appellant, and were not even mentioned in closing argument. Nor was the defense as a whole undermined, because he was not the only defense expert witness. Therefore, there was no reasonable probability of a more favorable outcome had the court excluded evidence of the other cases.

 

In re James H. (A116315 / 8/13/07)
154 Cal.App.4th 1078
[5.D.] Sealed juvenile court records may not be released for use in an SVP proceeding. As part of SVP proceedings prior to appellant's scheduled release from prison, the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) petitioned for release of appellant's sealed juvenile records under Welfare and Institutions Code section 827. The juvenile court ordered release of the records to BPH without a hearing. Appellant contended on appeal that the juvenile court exceeded its authority when it released records previously sealed under section 781. The appellate court agreed and remanded the case. Juvenile court records may not be released for use in an SVP proceeding when those records have been sealed by court order under section 781. Records which have been sealed under that section are by its express terms "not open to inspection." If the Legislature determines that sealed records should be available for this purpose, it may amend section 781 or the SVP Act to accomplish this.

 

People v. Carlin (H028513 / 4/26/07)
150 Cal.App.4th 322
[ 3.C.3.b.; 3.D.] There was sufficient evidence of "substantial sexual conduct" where perpetrator fondled the victim inside his pants. Appellant appealed from a commitment order after he was found to be a sexually violent predator (SVP) and committed to the State Department of Mental Health for two years. He argued on appeal that there was insufficient evidence that the offense involved substantial sexual conduct. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding the evidence sufficient. Appellant had his hand inside of the victim's pants, grasping his crotch area, and admitted that he "fondled" the victim. The conduct described constitutes masturbation and is therefore evidence of substantial sexual conduct. Further, there was no uncertainty about which act was the subject of appellant's conviction, and no due process violation in its use. There was no error in denying appellant's request to call the victim to testify because appellant's offer of proof was inadequate. Nor did the court err when it admitted post-plea evidence to show substantial sexual conduct. However, the use of hearsay statements in the investigator's reports to prove substantial sexual conduct violated appellant's due process rights. The statements were not reliable; they were inconsistent with earlier statements and were not corroborated. The prosecutor made no showing that the victim in question was unavailable and the court denied appellant's request to call him as a witness. It cannot be concluded that the error was harmless, and reversal was required. The court also held that there was no error in failing to instruct the jury that they must unanimously agree on which acts constituted substantial sexual conduct. There is no statutory requirement regarding unanimity for each subpart of a SVP determination.

 

People v. Dixon (E038509 / 3/8/07)
148 Cal.App.4th 414
[1.A.] In an SVP jury trial, there is a presumption against opening the courtroom to unlimited media coverage and in determining whether that presumption should be overcome, the court must evaluate the case by considering factors listed in Cal. Rules of Court, rule 1.150. Here, although the appellate court agreed that the trial court had abused its discretion in allowing televised media coverage as it had not considered the factors listed in the rule, it found that appellant had failed to show that the coverage adversely affected his right to a fair trial such that he was denied due process. Because an SVP proceeding is civil in nature, discovery is governed by the Civil Discovery Act. Accordingly, appellant was entitled to contact information for the prosecution?s witnesses. While entitled to discovery, appellant was also required to comply with the Act?s provision as to timeliness of the demand. Because he did not request the information within the time required, the court was under no obligation to grant the request.

 

People v. Lopez (H029248 / 1/18/07)
146 Cal.App.4th 1263
[4.C.] Appellant was committed under the Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Act following conviction for lewd acts on a child. Following his initial commitment, the prosecutor filed an extension for an additional two years. During trial on the recommitment petition, the prosecutor relied on the doctrine of collateral estoppel to bar Lopez from relitigating the issue of whether he had been convicted of the necessary qualifying convictions. The court instructed the jury that the court had already determined that appellant had suffered the requisite qualifying prior convictions, and therefore the jury need not decide the issue. On appeal, Lopez argued that the trial court erred by instructing the jury in that manner. The appellate court disagreed and affirmed. In the original commitment petition, the same two qualifying prior convictions were fully litigated and decided. The application of collateral estoppel did not violate Lopez's due process rights.

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