Published by New Jersey Sex Crime Attorney, Jeffrey Hark
In In the Matter of the Civil Commitment of C.H the Court reversed the trial court’s dismissal of a post criminal incarceration petition for civil commitment of C.H. pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act, aka, MAGAN”S LAW. The State petitioned the court for the civil commitment of C.H. when he was eligible for release after his18 month incarceration for parol supervision reporting requirement. The trial court dismissed the petition on December 26, 2012 and the state subsequently appealed.
C.H. is a fifty-five year old convicted rapist with multiple sex crime convictions, including four sexual offenses on woman between ages seventeen and thirty-six from 1978 to 2005. C.H. has also been convicted of violent crimes, drug related convictions, sexual assaults on women that were plead down to terroristic threats and a report of forced sex in 2007. Under the Sexually Violent Predator Act, N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.26, an involuntary civil commitment can follow a sentence if the court finds the offender suffers from a disorder that makes the person likely to engage in acts of sexual violence; the offender has an abnormality or disorder when his emotional, cognitive or volitional capacities are affected “in a manner that predisposes that person to commit act acts of sexual violence. Pursuant to NJSA 30:4-27.26 et. seq. the State must prove an individual is “a threat to health and safety of others because of his or her likelihood of his or her engaging in sexually violent acts” because the offender is “highly likely” to reoffend by clear and convincing evidence. In re Commitment of W.Z., 173 N.J. 109, 132 (2002).
At the November 2012 hearing the sole issue was the determination of what constituted “highly likely” with regard to C.H. and the risk of reoffending. The state argued C.H.’s record reflects a long history of terroristic threats, robbery, drug crimes, violent crimes, sexual assaults, raping of female victims and repeated parole violations. Although C.H. had not reoffended since his most recent release in 2009, State psychiatrists determined that C.H. was highly likely to reoffend and fit the criteria for involuntary civil commitment. With age the risk of a repeat offense decreases in past offenses, and C.H. had went more than 2 years without a problem. However, the State expert stated there was an increased risk of recidivism with C.H because of his persistent antisocial behavior. The judge accepted the argument that C.H. was predisposed to committing sex crimes in the future however the State failed to meet its evidentiary burden and did not show by clear and convincing evidence that C.H. was highly likely to repeat.
The appellate court reversed upon a plenary review of C.H.’s criminal history which it found shows him to be a risk and still having a robust antisocial personality disorder (ASPD). Second, the trial judge’s conclusion was significantly flawed by misconstruing C.H.’s arrest record to be arrest free for four-five consecutive years when in fact it was only a few months. Third, C.H. has unresolved drug problems that the judge gave insufficient weight and failed to impose treatment conditions on for release. Fourth, it was undisputed that C.H. had ASPD. Fifth, there was a lack of evidence that C.H. aged out of the risk area. Finally, C.H. should not be released until his most recent 2007 report of a sexual assault is fully investigated.