Summary of New Jersey’s SVPA Law
Definition of Sexually Violent Predator
New Jersey defines Sexually Violent Predators as:
a person who has been convicted, adjudicated delinquent or found
not guilty by reason of insanity for commission of a sexually violent
offense, or has been charged with a sexually violent offense, but
found to be incompetent to stand trial, and suffers from a mental
abnormality or personality disorder that makes the person likely to
engage in acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility
for control, care and treatment. [N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.26]
The mental abnormality referred to means "a mental condition that
affects a person’s emotional, cognitive or volitional capacity in a manner
that predisposes that person to commit acts of sexual violence." (ibid).
Finally, "likely to engage in acts of sexual violence" means, "the
propensity of a person to commit acts of sexual violence is of such a
degree as to pose a threat to the health and safety of others." (ibid).
The State of New Jersey may indefinitely commit those found to be an
SVP for control, care and treatment at a designated facility, operated by
Department of Corrections with treatment to be provided by the Department
of Human Services.
Initial Screening Determination and Probable Cause Hearing
The initial determination that a person confined in a Department of
Corrections facility may meet the SVP criteria is made by the Department
of Corrections. The statute provides no guidance as to how the
Department of Corrections, or any other agency, is to make that
Ninety days prior to the scheduled release date of such persons, the
agency must provide notice to the Attorney General along with all relevant
information without regard to any prior designation of such information as
confidential or privileged.
The Attorney General then arranges for evaluation of the person.
To initiate civil commitment proceedings, the Attorney General must
present two clinical certificates prepared by licensed physicians (at
least one of whom must be a psychiatrist). The certifying physician
must conduct an in-person examination of the individual within 3 days of
the presentation of the certificate to the court, and must attest to
his/her finding that the person is an SVP is accordance with the statutory
definition and is in need of involuntary commitment. The physician
must specify on the certificate, the specific facts upon which this
conclusion is based.
Upon receipt of the two certificates, the court must immediately review
them to determine if they establish probable cause that the person is an
SVP. If the court so concludes, the court must issue an involuntary
commitment order. The person is not entitled to be present, to be
represented by counsel, to present evidence or witnesses at this hearing.
Within 20 days of the signing of the temporary commitment order, the
court must convene a court hearing at which it must determine the
continuing need for involuntary commitment as a SVP. At this
hearing, the person is required to be represented by counsel, may present
relevant evidence and witnesses, be examined by an expert of his/her
choosing, and have that expert's report and testimony submitted for the
court's consideration, and cross-examine the state witnesses. The
state's expert psychiatrist must have evaluated the individual personally,
within 5 days of the court hearing.
If the court determines, by clear and convincing evidence, that the
person needs continued involuntary commitment as a SVP, the court signs a
formal commitment order and schedules a review hearing one year later.
If the court finds the person not to be an SVP, the person must be
released within 48 hours and with a discharge plan which may impose
restrictions and/or requirements on the person and his/her activities in
the community upon discharge.
Each person committed under the SVPA is entitled to a yearly review
hearing to determine if involuntary commitment as a SVP should be
continued. If so finding the court executes a new order.
Alternatively, the court may order a conditional discharge, to be reviewed
in no less than 6 months to determine if the person has complied with the
conditions of discharge. Additionally, the court may order the full
discharge of the person with an appropriately developed discharge plan.