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Name: People v. Gram
Case #: C061723
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/19/2012

In recommitting an MDO offender, the trial court lacks jurisdiction to commit the defendant to a facility other than the one where he was confined when the petition was filed. After serving his sentence for the 1994 assault on an elderly neighbor, defendant was paroled to Atascadero Hospital as an MDO. He was transferred first to Napa County Jail and then to California State Prison (CSP) Sacramento under Welfare and Institutions Code section 7301, because he posed a safety risk to others. Defendant challenged his placement at CSP Sacramento, which is under CDCR jurisdiction, as unconstitutional “punishment” and argued he should be returned to Napa as this was the least restrictive placement. (Welf. & Inst. Code, §5325.1, subd. (a) and (c)). The Court of Appeal held that under section 2972, subdivision (c), the trial court was required to order defendant recommitted to CSP Sacramento upon finding him an MDO. The court also rejected defendant’s claim that section 7301 is unconstitutionally vague because it fails to specify what conduct will cause a patient’s transfer or who has the burden of proof that a transfer is necessary. The Director of Mental Health decides whether a patient should be transferred to a CDCR hospital and that decision may be challenged as an abuse of discretion. Finally, although defendant made a colorable claim that his continued confinement at CSP Sacramento violated his statutory and federal constitutional rights, this claim must be made via a petition for writ of habeas corpus (Welf. & Inst. Code, §7250). The authority to transfer defendants is vested in the Department of Mental Health and a challenge to his administrative placement must proceed via a writ petition.