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Name: People v. Olsen
Case #: H039814
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/12/2014

The trial court did not apply the correct standard in determining whether sexually violent predator’s (SVP) petition for conditional release under Welfare and Institutions Code section 6608, subdivision (a) was frivolous. In February 2011, Olsen was committed as an SVP for an indeterminate term following a jury trial. In May 2013, he filed a petition for conditional release under section 6608 and attached a 2013 evaluation by a psychologist who concluded Olsen does meet the SVP criteria. The People filed a response with attachments, arguing that the petition should be dismissed as frivolous. After a hearing, the trial court denied the petition as frivolous, but noted that the procedure for evaluating whether the petition was frivolous was unclear. Olsen appealed. Held: Reversed and remanded for reconsideration. Section 6608, subdivision (a) applies when an SVP files a petition for conditional release without authorization from the Department. At the time Olsen filed his petition, the statute required the trial court to review the petition and determine whether it was based on “frivolous grounds,” which is not defined. If the court determines that the petition is frivolous, it is denied without a hearing. The Court of Appeal set forth the following procedure for a trial court’s threshold determination of frivolousness: A petition for release is based on frivolous grounds if any reasonable attorney would agree that the petition is totally and completely without merit. The trial court reviews the petition and any supporting documents to determine if the defendant has made a showing that he would not be a danger to others due to his diagnosed mental disorder while under supervision and treatment in the community. The court may also consider the Department’s annual report in its threshold determination of frivolousness. The People may respond to the petition, but only on the issue of whether the petition is frivolous. There should not be an evidentiary hearing on the issue.