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Name: In re Howard N.
Case #: F043006
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 02/19/2004
Subsequent History: Rev. granted 5/12/04: S123722
Summary

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.