Involuntary commitment' for sexually violent predators became the law in California in 1996. This law, the Sexually Violent Predator Act, provides for a civil jury trial.! This trial is unique, since some of the procedural protections afforded a criminal defendant apply. For example, a unanimous jury must find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the individual is a sexually violent predator.
The Act provides for the treatment of the individual if committed, and carefully crafts the procedures for the mental health evaluation and review process. Unfortunately, the part of the statute that provides for the civil trial is not as tightly drafted. Consequently, it is subject to some internal inconsistencies requiring clarification and statutory interpretation. This Article will address several problems in this area with specific recommendations to resolve those issues and clarify what elements should be subject to proof at trial. However, before any attempt to interpret the law is undertaken, the historical roots of the Sexually Violent Predator Act must be explored as an aid to that interpretation. The Act was enacted due to a profoundly serious problem of such magnitude that, prior to its legislation, three related federal statutes were enacted.
Joan C. Cassani,
A Primer on the Civil Trial of a Sexually Violent Predator,
San Diego L. Rev.
Available at: https://digital.sandiego.edu/sdlr/vol37/iss4/6