On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, SVP-430-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 14, 2009
Before Judges Lihotz and Ashrafi.
T.M.S. appeals from a February 27, 2007 order requiring his involuntary civil commitment in the Special Treatment Unit (STU) as a sexually violent predator under the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. T.M.S. challenges the order of civil commitment arguing:
THE STATE FAILED TO PROVE BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE THAT T.M.S. WAS SUBJECT TO COMMITMENT AS A SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATOR.
APPELLANT'S COMMITMENT IS PUNITIVE IN LIGHT OF THE FACT THAT HE SPENT MANY YEARS IN PRISON WITHOUT SEX OFFENDER TREATMENT BEING OFFERED TO HIM, WHILE THE STATE NOW APPARENTLY CONTENDS HIS PURPORTED CONDITION IS TREATABLE, AS SUCH T.M.S. SHOULD BE DISCHARGED FROM COMMITMENT (Not Raised Below).
After our review, we reject these arguments and affirm substantially for the reasons set forth by Judge Freedman in his comprehensive oral opinion of February 27, 2007.
Courts are authorized to order the involuntary civil commitment of an individual under the SVPA when the State has proven "by clear and convincing evidence that the person needs continued involuntary commitment as a sexually violent predator[.]" N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.32(a). An involuntary civil commitment can follow service of a sentence, or other criminal disposition, when the offender "has been convicted... of a sexually violent offense... 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 Court has explained the standard for involuntary commitment under the SVPA as follows:
To be committed under the SVPA an individual must be proven to be a threat to the health and safety of others because of the likelihood of his or her engaging in sexually violent acts.... [T]he State must prove that threat by demonstrating that the individual has serious difficulty in controlling sexually harmful behavior such that it is highly ...