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Name: People v. Superior Court (O’Connor)
Case #: B232295
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 09/22/2011
Subsequent History: 1/18/2012 rev. granted (S197705)

To hold a prisoner beyond his release date, on a 45 day hold, for an Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) evaluation, the Department of Mental Health must have “good cause” as defined in Welfare and Institutions Code section 6601.3, subdivision (b) and the inability to complete the evaluation due to workload did not constitute good cause. O’Connor was screened and met the criteria for SVP nine months before his scheduled release. His file was received by the SVP unit in April, 2010, but it was not reviewed until November, 2010 because of staff shortages and a high volume of cases. The level II screening was completed on December 15, 2010. The level III screening was not completed by January 5, 2011, even though the Department was aware that was his scheduled release date. DMH relied on workload as the reason to request a 45-day hold. Section 6601.3, subdivision (b), effective January 1, 2011, provided a definition of good cause as based on circumstances with recalculation of credits, a court order based on resentencing, or equivalent exigent circumstances which result in less than 45 days for completion of the evaluation prior to the release date. Because there had not yet been an interpretation of the new statute, the Department made a good faith mistake of law in this particular case. The dismissal of the petition was set aside and a writ of mandate ordered the Superior Court to proceed with SVP proceedings.