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Lawrence Brown v. the Superior Court of Orange County

January 28, 2013

LAWRENCE BROWN, PETITIONER,
v.
THE SUPERIOR COURT OF ORANGE COUNTY, RESPONDENT; THE PEOPLE, REAL PARTY IN INTEREST.



Original proceedings; petition for a writ of mandate/prohibition to challenge an order of the Superior Court of Orange County, David A. Hoffer, Judge. Petition denied. (Super. Ct. No. M14020)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Fybel, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

INTRODUCTION

By petition for writ of mandate/prohibition, Lawrence Brown challenges the respondent court's order denying his motion to dismiss a commitment petition filed against him pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act, Welfare and Institutions Code section 6600 et seq. (SVPA).*fn1 He argues the court erred because the SVPA commitment petition was not filed while he was in lawful custody under section 6601, subdivision (a)(2) (section 6601(a)(2)).

When the SVPA commitment petition was filed, Brown was in custody pursuant to a 45-day hold under section 6601.3, subdivision (a) (section 6601.3(a)). He contends the hold was invalid because it was issued without the requisite good cause defined in section 6601.3, subdivision (b) (section 6601.3(b)) and was not the result of a good faith mistake of fact or law.

We conclude good cause under section 6601.3(b) supported the 45-day hold and therefore deny Brown's petition for writ of mandate/prohibition. Brown had been returned to custody following revocation of his parole and sentenced to a 90-day term for a parole violation. As a result, when Brown was referred for a full evaluation under section 6601, subdivisions (c) through (i), there were fewer than 45 days to complete that evaluation before his scheduled release from custody. We do not address whether the 45-day hold was granted based on a good faith mistake of fact or law.

OVERVIEW OF THE SVPA SCREENING AND EVALUATION PROCESS

The SVPA provides for involuntary civil commitment of an offender immediately upon release from prison if the offender is found to be a sexually violent predator. (People v. Yartz (2005) 37 Cal.4th 529, 534.) The SVPA "was enacted to identify incarcerated individuals who suffer from mental disorders that predispose them to commit violent criminal sexual acts, and to confine and treat such individuals until it is determined they no longer present a threat to society." (People v. Allen (2008) 44 Cal.4th 843, 857; see Hubbart v. Superior Court (1999) 19 Cal.4th 1138, 1171 [SVPA proceedings are designed "to provide 'treatment' to mentally disordered individuals who cannot control sexually violent criminal behavior"].) "'[A]n SVPA commitment proceeding is a special proceeding of a civil nature, because it is neither an action at law nor a suit in equity, but instead is a civil commitment proceeding commenced by petition independently of a pending action.'" (People v. Yartz, supra, at p. 536.)

A sexually violent predator is defined as "a person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense against one or more victims and who has a diagnosed mental disorder that makes the person a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is likely that he or she will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior." (§ 6600, subd. (a)(1).) A "diagnosed mental disorder" is defined to include "a congenital or acquired condition affecting the emotional or volitional capacity that predisposes the person to the commission of criminal sexual acts in a degree constituting the person a menace to the health and safety of others." (§ 6600, subd. (c).)

The procedure for commitment under the SVPA begins with an initial screen in which the Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) determines whether a person in CDCR custody might be a sexually violent predator. (§ 6601, subd. (a)(1).) If the secretary determines the person might be a sexually violent predator, the secretary refers that person to the next level evaluation. (Ibid.) This referral must be made at least six months before that person's scheduled date for release from prison unless (1) the person was received by the CDCR with less than nine months remaining on his or her sentence or (2) the person's release date is modified by judicial or administrative action. (Ibid.)

After the secretary's referral, the person is screened by the CDCR and the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH) in accordance with "a structured screening instrument developed and updated by the State Department of Mental Health in consultation with the [CDCR]." (§ 6601, subd. (b); People v. Hurtado (2002) 28 Cal.4th 1179, 1183.) "If as a result of this screening it is determined that the person is likely to be a sexually violent predator, the [CDCR] shall refer the person to the State Department of Mental Health for a full evaluation of whether the person meets the criteria in Section 6600." (§ 6601, subd. (b).)

The procedures for a full evaluation are set forth in section 6601, subdivisions (c) through (i). Under section 6601, subdivisions (c) and (d), the person is evaluated by two practicing psychiatrists or psychologists, or by one of each profession, in accordance with a standardized assessment protocol developed and updated by the State Department of Mental Health (DMH). If both evaluators find the person "has a diagnosed mental disorder so that he or she is likely to engage in acts of sexual violence without appropriate treatment and custody," then the DMH forwards a request to file a petition for commitment to the county of the person's last conviction. (§ 6601, subd. (d).) If the county's designated counsel concurs with the recommendation, he or she files a petition for commitment in the superior court. (§ 6601, subd. (i).)

If one of the two professionals performing the evaluation does not conclude the person meets the criteria for commitment as a sexually violent predator, and the other concludes the person does meet those criteria, then the DMH "shall arrange for further examination of the person by two independent professionals selected in accordance with subdivision (g)." (ยง 6601, subd. (e).) If an evaluation by two independent professionals is conducted, a petition for commitment may be ...


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