APPEAL from the Superior Court of Riverside County. Carl E. Davis, Judge. (Retired judge of the San Bernardino Super. Ct. assigned by the Chief Justice pursuant to art. VI, § 6 of the Cal. Const.) Dismissed. (Super.Ct.No. SWF003431).
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Miller J.
CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION
Defendant Annette Sweeney (Sweeney) appeals from an order committing her to Porterville State Hospital pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 6500.*fn1
Sweeney was committed for the statutory period of one year after a jury found that she was mentally retarded and dangerous. (§ 6500.) Sweeney makes four contentions: (1) the trial court violated her rights to due process and equal protection; (2) the trial court violated her right to confront witnesses against her; (3) the trial court improperly instructed the jury; and (4) the trial court denied her a fair placement hearing by denying her request for a continuance. We agree that the trial court violated Sweeney‟s due process rights and that the trial court improperly instructed the jury. We disagree with Sweeney‟s contentions regarding equal protection and confrontation. We do not address Sweeney‟s argument concerning her request for a continuance.
We note that the maximum one-year period of confinement has expired. (§ 6500.) Therefore, this case is technically moot. We have not been asked to dismiss the appeal on these grounds. The issues addressed in this appeal are of continuing public importance, and such orders will typically expire before an appeal can be heard and thus will evade review. Therefore, we will address the issues presented by Sweeney; however, we dismiss the appeal as moot.*fn2 (See Conservatorship of David L. (2008) 164 Cal.App.4th 701, 708-709, 713.)
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On April 2, 2003, the Riverside County District Attorney filed a complaint against Sweeney. The complaint alleged that on or about March 31, 2003, Sweeney (1) willfully and unlawfully used force and violence and inflicted injury upon a peace officer (Pen. Code, § 243, subd. (c)(2)); (2) willfully and unlawfully attempted by means of threats and violence to deter and prevent an executive officer from performing his duties (Pen. Code, § 69); and (3) willfully and unlawfully threw a hubcap at a vehicle on a highway (Veh. Code, § 23110, subd. (a)).
On June 20, 2003, the trial court found Sweeney incompetent to stand trial (Pen. Code, § 1368), and the criminal proceedings against her were suspended (Pen. Code, § 1370.1, subd. (a)(1)(B)). Sweeney was committed to Porterville State Hospital for a maximum period of three years eight months.
On October 25, 2006, the district attorney filed a petition requesting that Sweeney be committed to the Department of Developmental Services. (§ 6500.) The district attorney alleged that Sweeney was mentally retarded and a danger to herself or others. (Ibid.) On April 23, 2007, a jury found that Sweeney was mentally retarded and dangerous. (Ibid.) The court found Sweeney should continue to be housed at Porterville State Hospital.
A. Due Process and Equal Protection
Section 6500 authorizes a mentally retarded person to be committed to the Department of Developmental Services if "he or she is a danger to himself or herself, or others." The definition of "dangerous to self or others" includes, but is not limited to, "a finding of incompetence to stand trial . . . if the defendant has been charged with a felony involving death, great bodily injury, or an act which poses a serious threat of bodily harm to another person." (§ 6500.)
During pretrial motions, the district attorney argued that Sweeney met the definition of dangerous because she had been found incompetent to stand trial, and she had been charged with two felonies that involved great bodily injury or an act which posed a serious threat of bodily harm to another person. Sweeney‟s trial attorney argued that the jury should determine whether the charges against Sweeney involved "death, great bodily injury, or an act which poses a serious threat of bodily harm to another person." (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6500.) The district attorney asserted that such a determination involved a question of law, not fact, and therefore the court should decide whether the charges against Sweeney involved violence or a threat of violence. The district attorney contended two charges, (1) willfully and unlawfully using force and violence and inflicting injury upon a peace officer (Pen. Code, § 243, subd. (c)(2)), and (2) willfully and unlawfully attempting by means of threats and violence to deter and prevent an executive officer from performing his duties (Pen. Code, § 69), qualified as charges involving great bodily injury, or a serious threat of bodily harm.
The trial court concluded that the determination of whether a charge involved violence or a threat of violence is a question of law. The court concluded that the Penal Code section 243, subdivision (c)(2), charge and the Penal Code section 69 charge met the offense criteria of Welfare and Institutions Code section 6500.
At the hearing on the petition, the district attorney presented the jury with evidence of Sweeney‟s dangerous behavior, and argued that Sweeney ...