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Name: People v. Putney
Case #: A142012
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 07/27/2016
Summary

Trial court acted in excess of jurisdiction by issuing a sexually violent predator (SVP) recommitment order while the defendant was serving a life Three Strikes sentence in another case. In 1991, Putney pleaded no contest to three counts of lewd acts on a child under the age of 14. After serving his prison term, he was committed as an SVP. In 2007, the prosecution filed a petition to extend his commitment. The SVP trial was continued a number of times, in part because there were criminal charges pending against Putney in another case. Ultimately, Putney pleaded no contest in the other case and received a life Three Strikes sentence. That case was affirmed on appeal. The SVP case then proceeded, and the jury found Putney was an SVP. He was committed to Coalinga for an indefinite term. He appealed. Held: Reversed. Under the SVP Act (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6600, et seq.), an offender who is found to be an SVP is subject to involuntary civil commitment for an indefinite term “immediately upon release from prison.” (People v. Yartz (2005) 37 Cal.4th 529, 534; Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6604.) An SVP is defined as a person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense against one or more victims and who has a diagnosed mental disorder that makes him a danger to the health and safety of others. Here, the recommitment petition was proper when filed, and it was also appropriate for the trial court to continue the SVP proceedings while the criminal case was pending. However, once the criminal case became final, the court lacked authority to grant the relief requested in the petition because the offender had no prospect of being released from custody for many years. He therefore posed no danger to the public, and did not meet the definition of an SVP. The SVP Act provides no mechanism for reviewing the SVP status of a person who is serving a lengthy prison term.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A142012.PDF