Civil Commitment of Sexual Violent Predators
- January 12, 2014
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In The Matter of the Civil Commitment of C.H. the State sought civil commitment under the Sexually Violent Predator Act(SVPA) (N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38). An Essex County Superior Court judge found C.H. not highly likely to re-offend and the prosecution contended on appeal that the judge failed to properly evaluate C.H.’s antisocial personality disorder and predisposition to re-offend a sexually violent predator. Before C.H. was dismissed from the NJ Special Treatment Unit (STU) the state appealed the Superior Court’s decision. C.H. was convicted of four sexual offenses on women 17 to 36 as well as other crimes of violence, including burglary, assault, theft and drug related offenses between 1978 and 2005. Under the SVPA, an individual can face involuntary civil commitment upon completion of their sentence if he or she “suffers from an mental abnormality of personality disorder that makes the person likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility for control, care and treatment.” N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.26. The court, deciding in re Commitment of W.Z., 173 N.J. 109, 127 (2002) interpreted the statute to mean that a mental abnormality or personality disorder must distort the ability to control the person’s “sexually harmful conduct”. The court, in W.Z., held the state bears the burden of proving the defendant is a threat to the health and safety of others by demonstrating “the individual has serious difficulty in controlling sexually harmful behavior” making it Highly likely” they will re-offend. The state’s expert psychiatrists found C.H. highly likely to re-offend sexually based on his paraphelia, a condition involving intense fantasies and urges with sexual arousal to inappropriate stimuli, polysubstance abuse and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). The Appellate Division found the trial judge’s opinion reflected a mistaken exercise of discretion based on the expert opinions provided. The judge found C.H. to be predisposed to acts of sexual violence, miscalculated the time periods between C.H.’s arrests, gave insufficient weight to unresolved substance abuse issues, concluded without evidence C.H. “aged out” of his sexually violent tendencies and failed to take into account the overall psychiatric situation of C.H. The Appellate Division determined C.H. would have his commitment reviewed periodically and, therefore, did not order a remand hearing but simply reversed the decision of the trial judge determined C.H. was to be civilly committed. If you have been charged with a sex crime, a conviction or guilty plea can result in incarceration for a term of years followed by involuntary civil commitment for life. Consequences also include registration as a sex offender and the social stigma you will face forever. It is critical you obtain experienced criminal defense counsel immediately if you are charged with a sex crime. For more information about rape, sexual assault, child molestation, solicitation of a minor or other sex crimes in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.