svpa compendium


Year 2010
California Court of Appeal

People v. Sokolsky (B212437 / 9/21/10)
188 Cal.App.4th 814
[1.] An appellant has no constitutional right to self-representation on appeal from an SVPA commitment. At jury trial, appellant was found to be a sexually violent predator and committed for treatment. On appeal he argued that he should be allowed to represent himself on the appeal because a significant liberty interest is at stake in a SVPA proceeding and, regardless, the appellate court has the discretion to permit him to represent himself. The court, relying on People v. Fraser (2006) 138 Cal.App.4th 1430, which held that a defendant has no constitutional right to represent himself in a civil commitment under the SVPA, rejected appellant's claim. There is no Sixth Amendment right to self representation in proceedings other than criminal prosecutions and the SVPA proceeding, a civil commitment with a non-punitive purpose, is not equivalent to a criminal prosecution. The court also declined to exercise its discretion in allowing appellant to represent himself.


People v. Superior Court (Sharkey) (B219011 / 3/25/10)
183 Cal.App.4th 85
Subsequent history: review granted 6/16/10 (S182355)
[2.B.] A scheduled parole release date may be subject to a 45-day hold if the Board of Parole Hearings finds good cause to complete a sexually violent predator (SVP) evaluation. Welfare and Institutions Code section 6601.3 provides for a hold up to 45 days for "good cause." "Good cause" is defined in regulations as existing when there is some evidence the inmate committed a sexually violent offense by force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury which resulted in a conviction or finding of not guilty by reason of insanity or there is some evidence that the inmate is likely to engage in sexually violent predatory criminal behavior. (Cal. Code of Regs., tit. 15, sec. 2600.1, subd. (d).) Nine months before his scheduled release from a 37-year sentence for sex offenses, Sharkey was screened to determine if he met SVP criteria. His case was reassigned, qualified for level I review and then level II review. One doctor issued a report indicating that Sharkey met the criteria for prosecution under the SVPA, but a second doctor's report was pending at the time a stay was sought. Four days before Sharkey's scheduled release on parole, there was a 45-day hold placed on him. A month after his scheduled release the district attorney filed the SVP petition. The trial court found Sharkey was entitled to dismissal of the petition because the regulation did not give a definition of good cause, but simply a reason why more time was needed. It meant that if there was "some evidence" then the deadline is not enforced. The People successfully sought a writ of mandate to overturn the dismissal and reinstate the SVP petition. The appellate court found the Legislature had delegated to the board the power to establish rules and regulations for when prisoners may be allowed release on parole. The judicial review of such a regulation is limited to whether it is within the scope of authority conferred and reasonably necessary to effectuate the purpose of the statute. The attributes of the regulation favor judicial deference. The Board's interpretation of the term "good cause" was found to be reasonable and the regulation was met in this case.


Wilson v. Superior Court (B216212 / 3/22/10)
182 Cal.App.4th 1457
Subsequent history: review granted 7/14/10 (S182340)
[1.A., 3.B.] The trial in an initial SVPA commitment proceeding cannot be held while the defendant is incompetent. Before being release on parole, appellant was found to be a mentally disordered offender (MDO) and was committed to Atascadero for treatment. While in Atascadero, psychologists evaluated appellant to determine if, in addition to being an MDO, he was also a sexually violent predator. They concluded he had a mental disorder that made it likely he would engage in predatory sexual violence if released from custody without appropriate treatment, so the prosecutor initiated SPVA proceedings. Defense counsel moved to stay the commitment proceedings pending a determination of appellant's competency, but the trial court denied the motion concluding there is no statutory right to be mentally competent during SVPA proceedings and, in light of the procedural protections provided by statute, including the right to counsel, it would not violate due process to proceed with the SVPA trial even if appellant were mentally incompetent.  The Court of Appeal considered whether SVPA proceedings could be conducted while a defendant is incompetent and concluded they could not. The balancing test articulated in Mathews v. Eldridge (1976) 424 U.S. 319, and People v. Otto (2001) 26 Cal.4th 200, precludes the state from proceeding with an initial SVPA commitment trial while the defendant is incompetent to understand the nature of the proceedings or to assist his or her counsel in the conduct of a defense in a rational manner due to a mental disorder or developmental disability. The appellate court recognized there are no statutory procedures are available to determine competency in SVPA cases, or in civil cases generally. But it ordered the trial court to adopt procedures to hold a competency hearing, and suggested procedures it use procedures provided by Penal Code sections 1368 and 1369 "to the extent practicable."


In re Lucas (C062809 / 3/5/10)
182 Cal.App.4th 797
Subsequent history: review granted 6/16/10 (S181788)
[2.B.] Under the SVPA, a continuance for good cause, pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 6601.3, is not defined by California Code of Regulations, regulation 2600.1, subdivision (d). Appellant was serving a seven-year prison sentence for failure to register, with a parole date set for October 12, 2008. On December 21, 2007, corrections personnel completed a preliminary screening and determined that Lucas met the criteria of a sexually violent predator, but the screening form was not received by the classification unit until 11 days before the parole date. Three days before the parole date, the Board of Parole Hearings placed a 45-day hold on Lucas, to facilitate a full evaluation. Lucas contested the continuance on the grounds that there was no showing of good cause, but the trial court denied the motion and Lucas then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the appellate court. The appellate court compared the authority for a good cause continuance between regulation 2600.1, subdivision (d) and section 6601, and rejected section 2600.1, subdivision (d), which provides there is good cause if there is some evidence that the person may be a sexually violent predator, because it did not effectuate the legislative intent to balance the public's interest for safety and the liberty interests of the inmate. Under section 6601.3, a person's custody may be extended no more than 45 days for evaluation, but only on a showing of good cause, which requires something exceptional that made it impossible to complete the evaluation process within the normal time period. Here, there was no such showing but since petitioner was not able to show by a preponderance that the board had not relied on regulation 2600.1, subdivision (d), which prior to the instant decision had not been found to be incorrect, he was not entitled to relief. (People v. Hubberti> (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 1202, 1229 [Where the error "'resulted from a mistake of law' and there was 'no hint of negligent or intentional wrongdoing,' the defendant's extended commitment was upheld."].)


People v. Reynolds (E047192 / 2/10/10)
181 Cal.App.4th 1402
[3.D.] When the trial court dismisses a petition for unconditional release (Welf. & Inst. Code, sec. 6608) without a hearing, the standard of review is abuse of discretion. Appellant, a person committed as an SVP, filed a petition for unconditional release (Welf. & Inst. Code, sec. 6608), which alleged only that his original commitment occurred nearly four years ago and that before the last recommitment he had an expert and was ready to go to trial. The prosecutor filed a motion to dismiss the petition as frivolous, and at the hearing on the motion the court dismissed the petition without reviewing it because defense counsel admitted there was no change in circumstances. Appellant argued the dismissal required reversal because the trial court did not review the petition. The court noted there were no cases discussing the standard of review when a petition is dismissed without a hearing, and held the standard was abuse of discretion. The court held there could be no abuse of discretion in dismissing a petition without a hearing where, as here, there was no opposition to the motion to dismiss, but rather, an agreement to dismissal without prejudice.
If a petition for unconditional release is frivolous, trial counsel does not render ineffective assistance for conceding there is no change in circumstance. Appellant argued his attorney abandoned him and was ineffective for not opposing the motion to dismiss. The court interpreted section 6608 to require a petitioner allege facts which show he is not likely to reoffend due to the diagnosed mental disorder. The court reviewed the facial adequacy of the petition and pointed out it did not allege petitioner was no longer a sexually violent predator. The court also noted there were two recent reports from experts concluding appellant was still an SVP. As a result of the deficient petition and the unfavorable evaluations, appellant could not show there was a reasonable probability that without the concession there would have been a more favorable result. Even if counsel had argued on behalf of appellant, there was no other likely result.


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