Sexually Violent Predators

Welfare and Institutions Code section 6600, et. Seq.

In 1996, the Sexually Violent Predator Act was enacted, which provides for the commitment of certain violent sex offenders to the state mental hospital following the completion of their prison sentences. The Sexually Violent Predator Act requires several criteria to be met before a sex offender may be committed. First, the offender must have been convicted of a violent felony sex offense. Second, the offender must have a diagnosed mental disorder. Third, the offender must be likely to commit further sexually violent predatory offenses. These cases, while defined as civil cases, have characteristics similar to criminal cases. For example, the offender has a right to a jury trial, the burden of proof is on the District Attorney, and the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. If a court or jury finds the offender to be a Sexually Violent Predator, the person is committed to Atascadero State Hospital for sex offender treatment for an indeterminate term. This type of litigation is targeted at the most serious sex offenders. As of May, 2003, there were over 99,000 registered sex offenders in California. However, only approximately 420, or less than one half of one percent, of these offenders are currently committed as Sexually Violent Predators.