Definition of a Personality Disorder in the SVPA

In Hubbart v. Superior Court (1999) 19 Cal.4th 1138, the California Supreme Court rejected a claim that the definition of a mental disorder in the SVPA was overbroad because it allegedly allowed commitment "based on a range of diagnosed mental impairments broader than what is constitutionally allowed, including mental disorders characterized primarily by an inability to control sexually violent impulses and behavior." In so holding, Hubbart relied on Kansas v. Hendricks (1997) 521 U.S. 346, 358-359 (Hendricks), for the propositions that (1) civil commitment is permissible as long as the triggering mental condition consists of a volitional impairment rendering the person dangerous beyond his or her control, and (2) due process does not dictate the precise manner in which this volitional impairment is statutorily described. (Hubbart, supra, at p. 1156.) Although the terms "'personality disorder'" and "'mental abnormality'" were used in the Kansas statute discussed in Hendricks, these were merely differences in semantics. (Id. at p. 1157.) The court noted the SVPA closely paralleled the Kansas scheme (approved in Hendricks) by describing the requisite mental disorder as one that predisposes the person to the commission of criminal sexual acts in a degree constituting a menace to the health and safety of others. (Hubbart, supra, at p. 1157.) Thus, the SVPA passed constitutional muster by properly establishing the requisite connection between the impaired volitional control and the danger posed to the public. (Hubbart, supra, at p. 1158.) The Hubbart court also considered a claim that the SVPA must be struck down because "the definition of a 'diagnosed mental disorder' does not expressly exclude antisocial personality disorders or other conditions characterized by an inability to control violent antisocial behavior, such as paraphilia." (Hubbart, supra, 19 Cal.4th at p. 1158.) The Hubbart court rejected that claim, emphasizing that while due process requires an inability to control dangerous conduct, it "does not restrict the manner in which the underlying impairment is statutorily defined." (Ibid.) In People v. Superior Court (Blakely) (1997) 60 Cal.App.4th 202, 204, 211, the Court of Appeal held that a trial court erred when it found that antisocial personality disorder could not, as a matter of law, constitute a mental disease, defect or disorder within the meaning of Penal Code section 1026.5. That statute allows for an extended civil commitment if "by reason of a mental disease, defect, or disorder the person represents a substantial danger of physical harm to others." (Ibid.; Blakely, supra, at p. 210.) The Court of Appeal held that a trier-of-fact could reasonably determine that a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder was a mental disorder under Penal Code section 1026.5. (Blakely, supra, at p. 212, fn. 10, pp. 213-214, fn. 11.) In conclusion, the holdings of Hubbart and Blakely are plainly contrary to defendant's argument that antisocial personality disorder cannot be a qualifying mental disorder under the SVPA.