SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A San Diego judge ruled Monday that civil commitments do not violate a sexually violent predator's constitutional right to equal protection and that sexually violent predators can be held under indeterminate, or indefinite sentences.
The ruling by Judge Michael Wellington brings California's sexually violent predator laws in line with sexually violent predator civil commitments across the nation, said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis,
Wellington, during a six-week hearing, considered the case of Richard McKee, a convicted child molester from San Diego County who had appealed his indefinite commitment under Jessica's Law.
McKee argued that California should not be able to treat sexually violent predators differently from other types of offenders, such as the mentally disordered and those found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Prosecutors argued that an indeterminate term reasonably balances public safety and treatment of the mentally ill.
Evidence included recidivism statistics and the quality of harm and trauma to victims of sexual assaults and molestations.
Jessica's Law was passed in 2006, changing the length of time a sexually violent predator could be held through a civil commitment from two years to an indeterminate sentence.
McKee was committed under Jessica's Law in 2007 and his case was one of the first to be appealed, Dumanis said.
The case made its way to the California Supreme Court, which sent it back to San Diego Superior Court after finding that the indeterminate term may violate the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause in that it treated sexually violent predators differently than other civilly committed classes of criminals.