Friday, June 18, 2010
S.C. to Review Order on Release of Alleged Sexual Predator
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a prison inmate alleged to be subject to commitment as a sexually violent predator must be released because the parole board lacked good cause to extend his prison commitment in order to evaluate him.
The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco Wednesday, unanimously granted David W. Lucas’s petition for review of the Third District Court of Appeal ruling in In re Lucas (2010) 182 Cal. App. 4th 797. Conference orders were not made public until yesterday because of Wednesday’s statewide court closing.
The Court of Appeal ruled March 5 that the Placer Superior Court had jurisdiction to commit Lucas as an SVP because he was in custody at the time, based on a statutory 45-day hold. While the board apparently relied on an invalid regulation in finding good cause for the hold, the Court of Appeal explained, its “good faith mistake of law” did not entitle Lucas to release.
Lucas served a seven-year term for failing to register as a sex offender, and was due for release on parole on October 12, 2008. Although correctional staff members had begun the process of potentially classifying him as an SVP months before, a required screening form was not received by the classification services unit of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation until Oct. 1.
Having inadequate time to complete the required psychiatric evaluations before the release date, the department referred the matter to the parole board, which placed the 45-day hold on his release based on Welfare and Institutions Code Sec. 6601.3, which permits such a hold upon a showing of good cause.
The Placer County district attorney subsequently filed a commitment petition under the SVP Act, which was granted.
In placing the 45-day hold, Justice Ronald Robie explained for the Court of Appeal, the board apparently relied on California Code of Regulations, regulation 2600.1(d), which essentially provides that the good cause requirement is met whenever there is evidence the inmate is likely to engage in sexually violent predatory criminal behavior.
The regulation is invalid, Robie concluded.
“If the board legitimately could find good cause for a 45-day hold under section 6601.3 based solely on a showing of some evidence that the person being evaluated (or to be evaluated) was convicted of a sexually violent offense and is likely to engage in sexually violent predatory criminal behavior—as regulation 2600.1(d) permits—then good cause for a hold would exist in every case referred for a full evaluation, and the exception would swallow the rule.”
Thus, the justice continued, Lucas was not in “lawful custody” when the Placer Superior Court judge ordered his commitment to the state hospital as an SVP. But under the act, he explained, there is no requirement that custody be lawful, only that the state act in good faith in keeping a person who may be ultimately found to be an SVP in custody.
Since the board had evidence that Lucas was an SVP, he said, and the regulation on which it relied had not been declared invalid up to that time, it acted in good faith, the justice said.
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