People v. Magana, No. B311611 (Cal. Ct. App. 2022)
Nature of Case: In 2011, Appellant was convicted of two counts of committing lewd and lascivious acts on a child under the age of 14 and sentenced to six years in state prison. Prior to Appellant’s release, a petition was filed to commit Appellant as a “sexually violent predator” (SVP). On the day set for trial, the court provided a minimal advisement to Appellant of his right to a jury trial (explaining only that in a court trial the same burden of proof applies), and Appellant waived his right to a jury trial. After a seven-day trial, the trial court declared Appellant to be an SVP and committed him for an indeterminate term.
On appeal Appellant argues that the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA) requires a full jury advisement and, in the alternative, that the trial court violated his right to due process and equal protection by failing to provide him a sufficient advisement of his right to a jury trial.
Holding: The Court of Appeals opinion rejected Appellant’s statutory and due process arguments but stated that Appellant’s equal protection claim likely has merit. The Court stated “[W]e have difficulty seeing how the dangerousness of an SVP would justify denying an alleged SVP the procedural protections for the right to a jury trial afforded to other civil committees, especially given the significant liberty interests at stake for an alleged SVP facing a potential indefinite commitment.” Appellant, however, did not raise his equal protection claim in the trial court. For that reason the Court remands the case to the trial court for Appellant to raise his equal protection claim in the trial court.