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Name: People v. Curlee
Case #: A136337
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 06/12/2015
Summary

Sexually violent predator (SVP) commitment case remanded so People may attempt to show that compelling SVPs to testify at their commitment hearings does not violate an SVP’s right to equal protection. The Alameda County District Attorney filed a petition to commit Curlee as an SVP. During the trial, the People called Curlee as a witness in its case-in-chief. The jury found that Curlee was an SVP and the trial court committed him to the California Department of Mental Health for an indefinite term. Curlee appealed, arguing that his compelled testimony violated his right to equal protection. Held: Remanded to trial court for evidentiary hearing. The California Supreme Court recently held that persons found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGIs) have a statutory right not to testify in a civil proceeding to extend their commitment. (Hudec v. Superior Court (2015) 60 Cal.4th 815, 818.) SVPs do not have the same right to refuse to testify. (See People v. Leonard (2000) 78 Cal.App.4th 776, 789-793.) Here, the Court of Appeal concluded that this differential treatment may violate an SVP’s right to equal protection. SVPs and NGIs are similarly situated for purposes of whether they may be compelled to testify at their commitment hearings. (See People v. McKee (2010) 47 Cal.4th 1172, 1207 (McKee I).) On the record in this case, the People did not justify the disparate treatment of SVPs. The Attorney General argued that the same factors that justify an indefinite commitment for SVPs (see People v. McKee (2012) 207 Cal.App.4th 1325, 1340-1346 (McKee II)), also justify the differential treatment related to compelled testimony. The Court of Appeal disagreed, concluding that the factors considered in McKee II do not necessarily show that an SVP’s testimony is more necessary than an NGI’s. The People will be allowed to make an appropriate showing on remand.