A person confined in a maximum-security psychiatric hospital under the Sexually Violent Predators Act does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in his dormitory room within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. Defendant, a sexually violent predator (SVP), was committed to Coalinga State Hospital (CHS). During a search of his dormitory based on a tip from another SVP, child pornography was found. He was charged with possession of child pornography by a registered sex offender (Pen. Code, § 311.11, subd. (b)). Prior to trial, he moved to suppress the evidence found during the search, arguing that he had an expectation of privacy in the dormitory section that he occupied. The motion was denied. He was convicted and appealed. Held: Affirmed. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizure, and its application depends on whether a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in the area or item searched. Relying on Hudson v. Palmer (1984) 468 U.S. 517, which held that a prison inmate has no reasonable expectation of privacy in a prison cell, the Court of Appeal here concluded that defendant’s expectation of privacy in his area of the CSH dormitory is not the kind of expectation that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable. Although SVPs are civilly committed and are not viewed as criminals, they are confined and treated until their dangerous disorders no longer pose a threat to society. Searches of SVPs and their dormitories are valid and necessary to ensure the security of the institution and the safety of patients, and also promote the objective of rehabilitation. Further, a CSH dormitory is not private like a home because the dormitory accommodates multiple patients, officers conduct random searches daily, and signage throughout the CSH warns patients that they are subject to such searches.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/F072710.PDF