Sex Offender’s Have Right to Self-Representation In Civil Commitment Proceedings
- August 13, 2014
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Although civil commitment proceedings for sex offenders who have completed their prison sentences are civil rather than criminal in nature, the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27 to -27.38, dictates that counsel will be provided for such hearings. D.Y. is a 52 year old male with a history of sexual assaults against minors. In 1986, D.Y. was indicted for first-degree sexual assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a)(1)); second-degree sexual assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(b)) and third-degree endangering the welfare of a minor (N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a)) based on allegations by D.Y.’s 12 year old nephew, C.Y., against D.Y. Ultimately D.Y. received a 5 year sentence in exchange for a plea to second-degree sexual assault against C.Y. In 1994, after his release, D.Y. befriended 12 year old A.B. who later alleged D.Y. had sexually abused him by engaging in touching, oral and anal sex and the display of child pornography to A.B. by D.Y. as well as videotaping sexual acts between A.B. and D.Y. As a result of A.B.’s allegations, D.Y. was charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a)(1)), second-degree sexual contact (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(b)), and third-degree impairing the morals of a child (N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a)). Upon entering a guilty plea to first-degree aggravated sexual assault (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2(a)(1)) in 1999 he received an 18 year prison sentence with a 6 year period of parole ineligibility at the Adult Diagnostic Treatment Center at Avenel (ADTC). Additionally, charges were levied by federal authorities and D.Y. was sentenced to 137 months of incarceration. In 2008, D.Y. completed his period of incarceration and a decision as to the civil commitment of D.Y. was required in order to protect the public if D.Y. was still considered a danger to children. In In the Matter of Civil Commitment of D.Y., 426, N.J. Super. 436 (App. Div. 2012), ___ N.J. ___(2014) the N.J. Supreme Court overturned the Appellate Division’s ruling and upheld D.Y.’s right to represent himself at his civil commitment hearing, as long as standby counsel was available at all times to facilitate as necessary for D.Y. The ruling was based on the long-standing right to self-representation dating back to 13th century English law. Although the right to self-representation exists, Justice Patterson writing for the Court included that self-representation “seldom proves to be a sound strategic choice.” If you are facing charges for sex offenses, you should obtain experienced criminal defense counsel immediately. For more information about sexual assault, rape, statutory rape, endangering the welfare of a minor, child pornography or other sex crimes in New Jersey visit DarlingFirm.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.