People v. Smith, A155689

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtSIMONS, Acting P.J.
Citation49 Cal.App.5th 445,263 Cal.Rptr.3d 90
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Fraisure SMITH, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date26 May 2020
Docket NumberA155689

49 Cal.App.5th 445
263 Cal.Rptr.3d 90

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Fraisure SMITH, Defendant and Appellant.

A155689

Court of Appeal, First District, Division 5, California.

Filed May 26, 2020


Jean F. Matulis, By Appointment of the First District Court of Appeal under the First District Appellate Project, for Appellant.

Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Jeffrey M. Laurence, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Bruce M. Slavin, Deputy Attorney General, and Karen Z. Bovarnick, Deputy Attorney General.

SIMONS, Acting P.J.

49 Cal.App.5th 449

Fraisure Smith, a committed sexually violent predator (SVP), was on conditional release when he filed a petition for unconditional discharge. During the unconditional discharge proceedings, his conditional release was revoked. We conclude that a statutory requirement that an SVP must have spent at least a year on conditional release requires a committed person to have been on conditional release for at least one year when the unconditional discharge petition is filed and to remain on that status throughout the duration of the unconditional discharge proceedings. Thus, the revocation of appellant's conditional release rendered him statutorily ineligible for unconditional discharge.

BACKGROUND

"Appellant pled no contest to assault with intent to commit rape and admitted prior conviction and prison term allegations. ( Pen. Code, §§ 220, 667.5, subd.(b), 1170.12.) He was sentenced to prison. Before his release on parole in 2010, he was declared an SVP under Welfare and Institutions Code section 6600 et seq. and was committed to Coalinga State Hospital." ( People v. Smith (Dec. 17, 2019, A153254) 2019 WL 7020056 [nonpub. opn.].)1 "On

263 Cal.Rptr.3d 92

December 2, 2013, the superior court granted appellant's petition for conditional release under Welfare and Institutions Code section 6608. He was released from Coalinga State Hospital on November 15, 2015, and placed in the California Conditional Release Program ...." ( Ibid. )

In March 2016, appellant filed a petition for unconditional discharge. In February 2017, following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court found appellant had established probable cause that he was no longer a public safety

49 Cal.App.5th 450

risk. The matter was continued to allow the state to prepare an expert evaluation before a jury trial.

In May 2017, the People filed a petition to revoke appellant's conditional release status ( Pen. Code, § 1609 ). ( People v. Smith, supra, A153254.) In October, following a contested hearing, the trial court granted the petition and recommitted appellant as an inpatient to Coalinga State Hospital.2 ( Ibid. ) At the October hearing, after the trial court ordered revocation, it determined appellant's unconditional discharge petition "was superseded by this hearing that resulted in [appellant's] return to Coalinga. So there's no basis for a trial [on unconditional discharge] at this point."

In April 2018, appellant filed a Marsden3 motion based on his counsel's failure to pursue appellant's petition for unconditional discharge. In May, following a Marsden hearing at which appellant withdrew his request, the trial court determined its previous ruling that appellant was no longer entitled to a trial on his unconditional discharge petition was erroneous, and appellant was in fact entitled to a jury trial. Trial was set for October.

In July 2018, the People filed a motion seeking (1) reconsideration of the finding that appellant demonstrated probable cause he was no longer a public safety risk, and (2) dismissal of appellant's unconditional discharge petition due to changed circumstances.4 The motion argued the trial court had the inherent authority to reconsider its prior probable cause finding, and it should do so based on the trial court's finding at the revocation hearing that appellant is a danger to the health and safety of others. The motion also argued that, by statute, an SVP must be on conditional release for at least one year before petitioning for unconditional discharge and, because appellant was not currently on conditional release, he was not statutorily eligible for unconditional discharge. Appellant filed an opposition, arguing solely that the People's motion for reconsideration was untimely (citing Code Civ. Proc., § 1008 ) and not based on an intervening change in law.

The trial court granted the People's motion and issued the following written order: "[Appellant's] petition requesting unconditional release which was filed on March 3, 2016 is denied. The court's prior finding of probable cause on February 27, 2017 is revoked based on the court's finding [appellant] in [violation] of his conditional release on October 30, 2017. Because

49 Cal.App.5th 451

[appellant] no longer meets the statutory requirement under Welfare and Institutions Code 6608(m) he is not eligible to petition for unconditional release."

263 Cal.Rptr.3d 93

DISCUSSION

I. Statutory Scheme

"Under the [SVP Act ( Welf. & Inst. Code § 6600 et seq.5 ) ], an offender who is determined to be an SVP is subject to involuntary civil commitment for an indeterminate term ‘ "immediately upon release from prison." ’ [Citations.] To establish that an offender is an SVP, the People must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the offender (1) has been convicted of a sexually violent offense against at least one victim and (2) ‘has a diagnosed mental disorder that makes [him or her] a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is likely that he or she will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior.’ ( §§ 6600, subd. (a)(1), 6604.) The SVPA is designed ‘ "to provide ‘treatment’ to mentally disordered individuals who cannot control sexually violent criminal behavior" ’ and to keep them confined until they no longer pose a threat to the public. [Citation.] Thus, ‘[t]he SVPA is not punitive in purpose or effect,’ and proceedings under it are ‘ "special proceedings of a civil nature." ’ " ( People v. Putney (2016) 1 Cal.App.5th 1058, 1065, 205 Cal.Rptr.3d 600 ( Putney ).)

" ‘[O]nce a person is committed as an SVP, he [or she] remains in custody until he [or she] successfully bears the burden of proving he [or she] is no longer an SVP’—through a petition for unconditional discharge under section 6605 or conditional release under section 6608 —‘or the [Department of State Hospitals] determines he [or she] no longer meets the definition of an SVP.’ " ( Putney, supra, 1 Cal.App.5th at p. 1066, 205 Cal.Rptr.3d 600.) The procedure to petition for conditional release is not relevant to this appeal.

With respect to unconditional discharge, section 6608, subdivision (m) (hereafter, section 6608(m) ) provides: "After a minimum of one year on conditional release, the committed person, with or without the recommendation or concurrence of the Director of State Hospitals, may petition the court for unconditional discharge. The court shall use the procedures described in subdivisions (a) and (b) of Section 6605 to determine if the person should be unconditionally discharged from commitment on the basis that, by reason of a diagnosed mental disorder, he or she is no longer a danger to the health and safety of others in that it is not likely that he or she will engage in sexually violent criminal behavior."

49 Cal.App.5th 452

Section 6605, subdivision (a), provides that, when a court receives a petition for unconditional discharge, it holds a hearing to determine whether "probable cause exists to believe that the committed person's diagnosed mental disorder has so changed that he or she is not a danger to the health and safety of others and is not likely to engage in sexually violent criminal behavior if discharged ...." (§ 6605, subd. (a)(1)–(2); see also Cooley v. Superior Court (2002) 29 Cal.4th 228, 252, 127 Cal.Rptr.2d 177, 57 P.3d 654 ["a determination of probable cause by a superior court judge under the SVPA entails a decision whether a reasonable person could entertain a strong suspicion" of the relevant finding (italics omitted) ].) If the court finds such probable cause exists, the matter proceeds to a court or jury trial. (§ 6605, subd. (a)(2)–(3).) "If the court or jury rules for the committed person, he or she shall be unconditionally released and unconditionally discharged." (§ 6605, subd. (b).)

II. The Denial of Appellant's Unconditional Discharge Petition

Appellant contends (1) the trial court improperly granted reconsideration of its

263 Cal.Rptr.3d 94

prior probable cause finding, and (2) the revocation of appellant's conditional release did not impact his right to a jury trial on his unconditional release petition. We disagree with the second contention and find it unnecessary to decide the first.

A. Effect of the Order Revoking Appellant's Conditional Release

The parties dispute whether the revocation of appellant's conditional release—resulting in his recommitment to a state...

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7 practice notes
  • People v. Peyton, B314992
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 28, 2022
    ...SVPs [to] demonstrate the ability to spend a year in the community" without revocation of that status ( People v. Smith (2020) 49 Cal.App.5th 445, 453, 263 Cal.Rptr.3d 90 ).Third, the State's interest in using the two-step process that starts with the one-year period of conditional rel......
  • People v. Gunn, C090455
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 24, 2021
    ...health and safety of others and is not likely to engage in sexually violent criminal behavior if discharged.' ” (People v. Smith (2020) 49 Cal.App.5th 445, 452.) Section 6605, subdivision (a)(2) provides that, if the trial court “determines that probable cause exists to believe that the com......
  • People v. Smith, A159649
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 17, 2022
    ...civil commitment of persons who have been convicted of certain sex offenses upon their release from prison. ( People v. Smith (2020) 49 Cal.App.5th 445, 451, 263 Cal.Rptr.3d 90 ( Smith III ).) To justify such commitment, the People must prove that the person " ‘(1) has been convicted o......
  • People v. Lucas, C092922
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 11, 2021
    ...from DSH was to apply first for conditional release and then later apply for unconditional release. Citing People v. Smith (2020) 49 Cal.App.5th 445, the court reasoned, “the legislature determined that before SVPs are unconditionally discharged on their own petitions they must spend time o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • People v. Peyton, B314992
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 28, 2022
    ...SVPs [to] demonstrate the ability to spend a year in the community" without revocation of that status ( People v. Smith (2020) 49 Cal.App.5th 445, 453, 263 Cal.Rptr.3d 90 ).Third, the State's interest in using the two-step process that starts with the one-year period of conditional rel......
  • People v. Gunn, C090455
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • June 24, 2021
    ...health and safety of others and is not likely to engage in sexually violent criminal behavior if discharged.' ” (People v. Smith (2020) 49 Cal.App.5th 445, 452.) Section 6605, subdivision (a)(2) provides that, if the trial court “determines that probable cause exists to believe that the com......
  • People v. Smith, A159649
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • February 17, 2022
    ...civil commitment of persons who have been convicted of certain sex offenses upon their release from prison. ( People v. Smith (2020) 49 Cal.App.5th 445, 451, 263 Cal.Rptr.3d 90 ( Smith III ).) To justify such commitment, the People must prove that the person " ‘(1) has been convicted o......
  • People v. Lucas, C092922
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 11, 2021
    ...from DSH was to apply first for conditional release and then later apply for unconditional release. Citing People v. Smith (2020) 49 Cal.App.5th 445, the court reasoned, “the legislature determined that before SVPs are unconditionally discharged on their own petitions they must spend time o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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