Civil Commitment of Sex Offenders Cases In California

Involuntary civil commitment statutes are subject to the most rigorous form of constitutional review. ( Hubbart v. Superior Court (1999) 19 Cal. 4th 1138, 1153, fn. 20 [81 Cal. Rptr. 2d 492, 969 P.2d 584].) The SVPA (The Sexually Violent Predators Act) is to be narrowly construed to serve the legitimate and compelling state interest of protecting the public from the danger posed by violent sex offenders and of treating persons with uncontrollable mental disorders. (Ibid.; cf. Conservatorship of Hofferber (1980) 28 Cal. 3d 161, 171 [167 Cal. Rptr. 854, 616 P.2d 836]; People v. Saffell (1979) 25 Cal. 3d 223, 232-233 [157 Cal. Rptr. 897, 599 P.2d 92].) " 'To determine legislative intent, a court begins with the words of the statute, because they generally provide the most reliable indicator of legislative intent.' If it is clear and unambiguous our inquiry ends. There is no need for judicial construction and a court may not indulge in it. 'If there is no ambiguity in the language, we presume the Legislature meant what it said and the plain meaning of the statute governs." ( Diamond Multimedia Systems, Inc. v. Superior Court (1999) 19 Cal. 4th 1036, 1047 [80 Cal. Rptr. 2d 828, 968 P.2d 539].) The Sexually Violent Predators Act is straightforward in its tone and intent. Its objective "is to identify individuals who have certain diagnosed mental disorders which make them likely to engage in acts of sexual violence and to confine them for treatment of 'their disorders only as long as the disorders persist and not for any punitive purposes.' (Stats. 1995, ch. 763, 1.)" ( In re Parker (1998) 60 Cal. App. 4th 1453, 1466 [71 Cal. Rptr. 2d 167].) The enactment requires that the state prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the charged party suffers from a currently diagnosed mental disorder which predisposes him to engage in sexually violent criminal behavior. ( 6600, subd. (a); Hubbart v. Superior Court, supra, 19 Cal. 4th at p. 1158.) An SVP inmate "shall not be kept in actual custody longer than two years unless a subsequent extended commitment is obtained from the court incident to the filing of a new petition for commitment under this article . . . ." ( 6604, italics added.) The sole provision in the statutory scheme for a new petition is set forth in section 6601. This section requires that a new petition be supported by two mental health evaluations conducted by at least two practicing psychiatrists or psychologists in accordance with a standardized assessment protocol. ( 6601, subds. (c) & (d).)