Skip to content
Name: People v. Talhelm
Case #: E026020
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 12/11/2000
Subsequent History: Rev. den. 3/28/01

The trial court erred here in summarily denying Talhelm’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus. While the trial court reasoned that the appropriate procedure to challenge a probable cause determination in a Sexually Violent Predators Act commitment was to file a motion under Penal Code section 995, the appellate court held this to be the proper procedural vehicle for challenging the trial court’s finding of probable cause. Nonetheless, the Court of Appeal found the error to be harmless. While a prejudice showing was required under People v. Pompa-Ortiz (1980) 27 Cal.3d 519, 529, and Talhelm did not even purport to make such a showing, the court’s review of the record compelled the conclusion that Talhelm had received a fair trial. While Penal Code section 6601, subdivision (a), of the Sexually Violent Predators Act requires that a referral for evaluation as an SVP be made at least six months prior to the individual’s scheduled release date, the filing of the commitment petition here on May 27, 1999, when the scheduled release date was June 23, 1999, was not untimely. The referral here was timely made in October of 1998. The plain language of the SVPA supports this because section 6601.3 provides that the defendant’s commitment for evaluation is limited to 45 days unless the scheduled release date is later than 45 days from the time of referral. Moreover, the Court of Appeal found there was nothing in the legislative history of the SVPA that indicated that the Legislature intended the commitment proceedings to be completed before the defendant’s scheduled release date. Finally, the appellate court found the Mentally Disordered Prisoners Act and the cases decided thereunder are not helpful in SVPA cases because the SVPA does not contain the express time limits contained in the MDPA. Accordingly, the failure to complete the commitment process here before the scheduled release date did not result in a procedural due process deprivation. The Court of Appeal rejected defendant’s claims that his substantive due process rights were violated by the looseness of the definition of the term “mental disorder” which could permit commitment solely based on prior convictions and without any evidence of a recognized mental disorder. First, the Sexually Violent Predators Act itself requires jurors to be admonished that an SVP finding cannot be based on the defendant’s prior convictions alone. Second, this argument was rejected by the California Supreme Court in Hubbart v. Superior Court (1999) 19 Cal.4th 1138. Finally, there was ample evidence here that in addition to his prior convictions, the defendant had been diagnosed as a pedophile, based on clinical tests and personal interviews, as well as his prior convictions.