Mentally Incompetent Defendant Has No Due Process Right Against Being Tried, Committed and Treated as Sexually Violent Predator

Moore v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California, 237 P.3d 530 (2010)

Overturning the decision of the California Court of Appeals, the California Supreme Court in a split decision has ruled that a mentally incompetent defendant has no due process right to avoid being tried and committed as a sexually violent predator. The court held that due process does not require mental competence on the part of someone undergoing a commitment or recommitment trial, which is a civil proceeding under the California Sexually Violent Predators Act. The strong governmental interest in protecting the public through the proper confinement and treatment of SVP's would be substantially thwarted by recognizing an SVP's right to delay or avoid confinement and treatment for a sexually violent mental disorder because his problems render him incompetent to stand trial. Recognition of such a due process right could prevent an SVP determination from being made at all. Such a scenario could often recur and would undermine the purpose and operation of the Act. The court found that public safety could suffer as a result.

Found in DMHL Volume 30 Issue 1