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Name: People v. Harrison
Case #: S199830
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 10/31/2013

In Mentally Disordered Offender (MDO) proceedings, compliance with the evaluation and certification procedural requirements in Penal Code section 2962, subdivision (d) is a question of law for the court. Harrison was convicted of battery with serious bodily injury and sentenced to state prison. Prior to release on parole, the Board of Parole Hearings certified him as an MDO pursuant to section 2962. Harrison petitioned for a hearing to challenge the Board’s determination. At a bench trial, the superior court determined that Harrison met the criteria of an MDO and committed him for an additional year for treatment. The appellate court agreed with Harrison’s contention that under section 2962, the trier of fact must find that the procedural provisions of the statute have been met. Reversed. Section 2962, part of the MDO Act, requires civil commitment of a state prisoner when the following substantive criteria is met: the prisoner has been certified as suffering from a severe mental disorder that is not or cannot be kept in remission without treatment; the disorder was one of the causes of or an aggravating factor in the qualifying crime; the prisoner has been in treatment for the disorder for at least 90 days within the year preceding release on parole; and the prisoner represents a substantial danger because of the disorder. The statute sets forth specific criteria for the evaluation and certification procedures. Applying rules of statutory construction, the Supreme Court concluded that the statute does not require that compliance with the evaluation and certification procedures be proved to the trier of fact; instead compliance is a question of law for the court and the prisoner must make a timely objection to challenge the procedures. Only the substantive criteria used by mental health professionals to certify a prisoner as an MDO must be proven to the trier of fact.