California Penal Code Section 2970 - Interpretation

In People v. Garcia (2005) 127 Cal.App.4th 558, the Court of Appeal held that district attorneys are empowered to initiate commitment proceedings under section 2970 only if mental health officials have first determined that "the prisoner's severe mental disorder is not in remission, or cannot be kept in remission without treatment." (Garcia, at p. 562.) The district attorney in Garcia filed a section 2970 petition for continued involuntary treatment of the prisoner as an MDO, even though mental health professionals recommended against pursuing recommitment because the prisoner's schizoaffective disorder "was in remission and he was no longer a danger of physical harm to others ... ." (Garcia, at p. 563.) The district attorney merely substituted pedophilia as the prisoner's severe mental disorder, and the trial court ordered the prisoner recommitted for a one-year period. (Ibid.) "Because the prosecutor did not have statutory authority to initiate commitment proceedings under section 2970," the Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order. (Id. at p. 567.) Garcia examined the limits of the district attorney's statutory authority.