Hearsay Victim Statements Against Sexually Violent Predators

In People v. Superior Court (Howard) (1999), the Sixth District considered whether the admission into evidence at an Sexually Violent Predators (SVP) probable cause hearing of hearsay victim statements contained in probation reports violated the due process rights of the defendant. (Howard, supra, 70 Cal. App. 4th at pp. 154-155.) The Howard court addressed the first two due process factors as follows: "While the alleged sexually violent predator has a strong liberty interest, the government also has a strong interest in protecting the public from persons who are dangerous to others. If the defendant's sexually violent offenses can be established only by looking to the record of prior convictions, this additional procedural burden will severely limit the People's ability to protect the public by obtaining commitments under the Sexually Violent Predators (SVP) Act. . . . If, as here, the defendant pled guilty before the preliminary hearing, or the victims' testimony was not sufficient to establish the details of the offense as required by the SVP Act, the state would never be able to meet its burden." (Howard, supra, 70 Cal. App. 4th at p. 155.) The Howard decision also addressed the last two due process factors: "the proceedings mandated by the Act are adequate to enable a defendant to challenge the People's documentary evidence. By doing so, the defendant has the opportunity to thoroughly present his side of the story. Moreover, hearsay statements are obviously vulnerable to challenge by defendant as arguably unreliable summaries of victim and witness interviews, and the defendant may rebut the hearsay statements by providing his own version of the details underlying his offenses." (Howard, supra, 70 Cal. App. 4th at pp. 154-155.)