SVPA is the acronym for the New Jersey Sexually Violent Predator Act. It became effective on August 12, 1999. Its statutory provisions begin at N.J.S. 30:4-27.24.
New Jersey's legislature justified creation of the SVPA by declaring existence of persons with mental abnormalities who, unless “treated,” are likely to commit offenses characterized by repeated acts of “predatory sexual violence”. Statutory provisions for involuntary commitment of persons deemed mentally ill already existed. But the persons “likely to engage in repeat acts of predatory sexual violence” unless treated did not fit within New Jersey's preexisting definition of persons deemed mentally ill. Accordingly, New Jersey's legislature enacted the SVPA to enable institutionalization of persons deemed to be within that category. In fact, persons covered by the SVPA are deemed to be so dangerous to others that they are housed in facilities separate from persons with traditional mental illness.
To become subjected to New Jersey's SVPA, a person must be found to have committed a sexually violent offense. This finding must be made by evidence that is “clear and convincing.” “Sexually violent offense” is defined as any of the following:
- Aggravated sexual assault;
- Sexual assault;
- Aggravated criminal sexual contact;
- Kidnaping, where the victim is a minor and any of various sexually-related crimes, or crimes involving child pornography, are perpetrated. (The specific statutory reference is subparagraph (b) of paragraph (2) of subsection c. of N.J.S. 2C:13-1);
- Criminal sexual contact;
- Felony murder if the underlying crime is sexual assault;
- An attempt to commit any of these enumerated offenses;
- Any criminal offense having substantially the same elements as any offense listed above under the laws of the United States or any other state;
- Any offense for which the court finds that the person's offense should be considered a sexually violent offense.
- Trial by jury;
- Miranda warnings;
- Not being subjected to ex post facto laws.
- The right to be represented by counsel or, if indigent, by appointed counsel;
- The right to be present at the court hearing unless the court determines that because of the person's conduct at the court hearing the proceeding cannot reasonably continue while the person is present;
- The right to present evidence;
- The right to cross-examine witnesses;
- The right to a court review every twelve months or sooner, to determine whether involuntary commitment is to be continued; and
- The right to to have the public excluded from the proceedings (hearing in camera).
Persons committed pursuant to SVPA are entitled to treatment. The treatment plan must be individualized to meet their specific needs. The treatment team can recommend discharge from involuntary commitment status any time the team determines that the person is not likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if released. The treatment team can also recommend, and the court may impose, requirements for ongoing treatment following release.
Allan Marain has been representing persons charged with sexual offenses in New Jersey for over forty-five years. He knows his way around. He is available to amass evidence supporting termination of SVPA status and, for that matter, to prevent persons from being subjected to the horrors of SVPA in the first place.