In California, the Sexually Violent Predators Act provides for the involuntary indeterminate civil commitment of certain sex offenders who are found to be sexually violent predators. A “SVP” is 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 that person a danger to the health and safety of others and predisposes such an individual to commit sexually violent offenses. Certain sex crimes constitute sexually violent offenses within the meaning of the statute, including rape, sodomy, oral copulation, sexual penetration, or lewd or lascivious acts, when committed by force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate unlawful bodily injury of the victim or another person.
An indeterminate civil commitment is not considered a punishment. Rather, its purpose is to provide treatment to those offenders who suffer from a mental illness that increases the risk of harm to the public. Nonetheless, since a civil commitment involves a significant deprivation of liberty, a defendant in an SVP proceeding is entitled to due process protections. This protection provides certain procedural rights, entitling the person to a trial by jury, the assistance of counsel, the right to retain experts or professional persons to perform an examination on his or her behalf, and to have access to all relevant medical and psychological records and reports. The main purpose of SVP proceedings is to determine whether persons posses a danger to others, and that they are likely to engage in sexually violent offenses in the future.
Currently, there are approximately 700 patients in California who have been committed to the SVP treatment program. The probability of successfully completing the sex offender treatment program is less than 5%. In other words, the vast majority of the individuals who are civilly committed may never be released because they will never be able to successfully complete their state prescribed treatment program. As a result, the importance of an excellent legal representation of those individuals who are facing SVP proceedings before the completion of their prison terms is critical. In many instances, this will mark the difference between being released from custody or confined indefinitely to a state mental institution with a stigma of a SVP offender.
The Law Office of Domenic J. Lombardo handles all aspects related to the defense of sex crimes in San Diego County. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us at (619) 232-5122 or send us a message via the secure contact form on this page.