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Name: Moore v. Superior Court
Case #: S174633
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/19/2010
Summary

A defendant in a Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) proceeding does not have a due process right to not be tried or committed while mentally incompetent. After proceedings were brought to recommit appellant as an SVP, he filed a motion with the trial court requesting a mental competency hearing and a stay of SVP proceedings until his competence to stand trial was determined. Following the trial court’s denial of the motion, the appellate court issued an order directing a competency hearing. The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court order. SVP proceedings are civil in nature and rights available in criminal trials do not necessarily apply in civil proceedings. However, because the civil commitment involves a significant restraint on liberty, a defendant in such proceedings is entitled to some due process protections, such as the right to testify over counsel’s objections. (People v. Allen (2008) 44 Cal.4th 843.) In determining which protections are available, the court considers four factors: (1) the private interest affected by official action; (2) the risk of erroneous deprivation of such an interest through procedures used and value of any additional safeguards used; (3) the government’s interest; and (4) the dignitary interest of defendant enabling him to present his side of the story. Applying these factors, the Court found that the strong governmental interest in protecting the public through confinement and treatment of an SVP would be substantially impeded by recognizing the SVP’s right to delay such confinement and treatment because his mental problems make him incompetent to stand trial. Thus, there is no due process right to avoid trial on mental competence grounds.