Can sex offender represent himself at commitment hearing? NJ Supreme Court will decide

By Maynard & Sumner, LLC of Maynard & Sumner, LLC posted in Sex Crimes on Thursday, May 8, 2014.

On May 7, 2014, the Supreme Court of New Jersey heard oral argument on whether convicted sex offenders may represent themselves in their own civil commitment hearing. Defendant, known as D.Y., was convicted of first-degree aggravated sexual assault against a child in 1999. After having served fifteen (15) years in prison, and prior to being released, D.Y. must undergo a civil commitment hearing pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA). D.Y. wishes to represent himself at the hearing, however, the Attorney General’s Office opposes D.Y.’s request on the basis that it has never been done before.

Sexually Violent Predator Act allows civil commitment of certain sex offenders

The Sexually Violent Predator Act was enacted in 1999, in which certain individuals convicted of committing a sex crime may suffer from a mental illness or mental abnormality, thus necessitating treatment, and allowing the court to involuntarily commit the offender for such treatment. Pursuant to the Act, certain offenders who are deemed mentally ill and dangerous to oneself, others, or property may be involuntarily committed. Applicable sex crimes include:

  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Aggravated criminal sexual contact
  • Certain kidnapping offenses
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Murder, if the underlying crime is sexual assault
  • An attempt to commit any of the above

Pursuant to New Jersey law, a “sexually violent predator” is defined as follows:

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.

In the case before the NJ Supreme Court, the sex offender wishes to represent himself at his own hearing. By law, the defendant is entitled to have an attorney appointed.

Source: “Court To Decide if Sex Offender Can Represent Self at Detention Hearing,” Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal, May 7, 2014.

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  1. […] is evaluated by the State for civil commitment under the Sexually Violent Predator Act.  If committed, confinement will commonly last years, up to life, following the offender’s prison […]

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