There are two recent court decisions, one from an appellate court and the other from a trial court, that may be evidence that California judges are getting smarter on issues of importance to the registrant community.
In the appellate court decision, three judges decided that the District Attorney must prove that a person required to register poses a current risk before a court can require continued registration beyond the minimum amount of time required under the Tiered Registry Law. In doing so, the appellate court overturned a trial court decision which denied a registrant’s petition based upon the facts of the conviction offense which took place more than 20 years ago.
The appellate court described those facts as “egregious” and yet criticized the trial court for its failure to fully consider the fact that the person required to register had been a law-abiding citizen for more than 20 years after his release from custody.
This appellate court is to be commended on its clear thinking and wise decision.
This appellate court decision, People v. Thai, is even more surprising in that it was issued in a county known to be judicially conservative. It is also a decision that will be used widely by attorneys and petitioners in both pending and future petition cases in which a District Attorney has objected to a petition. I predict great success in those petitions.
In the trial court decision, a judge in San Mateo County ruled that the California Department of Corrections (CDC) cannot require persons required to register to continue treatment the entire time they are on parole. She made this decision after two representatives of CDC testified that the state agency always requires every registrant while on parole to continue treatment.
During the hearing in this case, the judge asked CDC’s attorney a series of questions regarding the requirement to continue treatment. The attorney truthfully confirmed the testimony of her client, that is, CDC does not make treatment decisions on a case-by-case basis but instead requires all persons on parole to be treated during their entire parole period.
In her decision, the judge noted that state law provides courts with discretion to end treatment after one year. The judge further noted that the parolee in question had already completed a three-year treatment program before he was told he had to start a new treatment program provided by a new treatment provider. The judge exercised her discretion in this case and immediately terminated the petitioner’s treatment requirement. This judge is to be commended on her courage and wise decision.
These two court decisions give me hope. They should give you hope as well.
California judges appear to be getting smarter in that they are increasingly willing to look beyond the myths associated with persons required to register and are now more fairly applying the law to persons required to register.