Appendix C

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 determination.

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.

Commitment 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.

Annual Review

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.

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