On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. SVP 500-08.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted October 27, 2009
Before Judges Carchman and Lihotz.
D.E.C. appeals from a November 7, 2008 judgment requiring his involuntary civil commitment in the Special Treatment Unit (STU) in Kearny, a "secure facility designated for the custody, care and treatment of sexually violent predators," N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.28g, pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA), N.J.S.A. 30:4-27.24 to -27.38. D.E.C. challenges the judgment of civil commitment and determination that he is a sexually violent predator, arguing:
THE STATE FAILED TO PROVE BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE THAT D.E.C. IS A SEXUALLY VIOLENT PREDATOR AND AT PRESENT THE RISK OF RECIDIVISM IS AT A SUFFICIENTLY HIGH LEVEL TO JUSTIFY COMMITMENT.
D.E.C. AND OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO ENTER A PROGRAM INVOLVING NOT ONLY THERAPY BUT WHICH WOULD ALSO INVOLVE THE GRADUAL LESSENING OF HIS RESTRICTIONS SO THAT HE COULD PROVE THAT HE HAS INCORPORATED THE THERAPY INTO HIS BEHAVIOR AND IS NOT A DANGER TO THE COMMUNITY.
Following our review, we reject D.E.C.'s arguments and affirm substantially for the reasons set forth by Judge Perretti in her comprehensive oral opinion of November 7, 2008. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A). We add these comments.
Under the SVPA, courts are authorized to order the involuntary civil commitment of an individual 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. 30:4-27.32a. 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 likely that he or she will not control his or her sexually violent behavior and will reoffend.
Those findings... require an assessment of the reasonably foreseeable future. No more specific finding concerning precisely when an individual will recidivate need be made by the trial court. Commitment is based on the individual's danger to self and others because of his or her present serious difficulty with control over ...