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Name: People v. Superior Court (Ghilotti)
Case #: S102527
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 04/25/2002
Subsequent History: None

A petition seeking the commitment or recommitment of a sexually violent predator cannot be filed unless two mental health professionals designated by the Director under statutory procedures have agreed, by correct application of statutory standards, that the person “has a diagnosed mental disorder so that he or she is likely to engage in acts of sexual violence absent appropriate treatment and custody. The statutory standard is met if, because of a mental disorder, the person currently presents a substantial danger – a serious and well founded risk – of criminal sexual violence unless maintained in custody. The statute does not , however, require an evaluator to determine whether there is a better than even chance of new criminal sexual violence. An evaluator’s conclusion that one does not meet the criteria is legally erroneous if it stems from a conclusion that although the person presents a well-founded risk of reoffense if free without conditions, the evaluator cannot say the risk exceeds 50 percent. An evaluator’s recommendation is also invalid if there appears a reasonable probability that it was influenced by the evaluator’s legal error including misinterpretation of the “likely to reoffend” standard. The recommendation of an evaluator is subject to judicial review for legal error, and if the court finds no legal error, the court shall deem the evaluation valid and dispose of the petition accordingly. If there is legal error on the face of the report, the court shall direct the evaluator to prepare a new report applying the correct standards. Therefore, Ghilotti’s case was remanded to the superior court to vacate the order dismissing the petition and for further proceedings.