Post-Prison Ruies for Sex Offenders Upheld by California Supreme Court
By Bob Egelko
Sex offenders in California who have completed their prison sentences must comply with strict monitoring conditions while on probation, including undergoing lie-detector tests about their conduct and receiving treatment from therapists who can reveal their secrets to a probation officer, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.
Although offenders must take part in the lie-detector interrogation and therapy, none of their answers can be used to file or prove new criminal charges against them, the court said. The goal, instead, is to monitor the former inmates and prevent future crimes, the justices said.
That requires probation officers to gain "complete and accurate information about a probationer's prior victims, the probationer's access to potential new victims and the high-risk behavior unique to that sex offender," Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar said in the unanimous ruling.
The requirements were included in a law the state Legislature passed in 2010 to try to improve community supervision of sex offenders.
Cuéllar noted that California has 75,000 registered sex offenders, more than any other state. Under other state laws, they are required to report to police at least once a year for life, and those who were convicted of the most serious crimes have their addresses listed on a public database.
The court case involved a San Jose youth, Ignacio Garcia, who was charged as an adult with lewd conduct with a 9-year-old cousin in March 2011, when Garcia was 16. He pleaded no contest, served a year in jail, was found by investigators to pose no substantial risk of future sex crimes and was placed on probation for three years, with mandatory therapy and lie-detector tests.
His lawyer challenged the requirements as a violation of the constitutional right against self-incrimination. Organizations of psychiatrists and social workers sided with Garcia in his appeal, saying they opposed the requirement that they disclose the responses he gave during therapy to his probation officer and a polygraph examiner.
Cuéllar said lie-detector tests would double-check an offender's answers to the probation officer, and a therapist could aid in rehabilitation by disclosing pertinent information to the probation officer, with a guarantee that it would go no further.
He also noted that under a separate state law, a psychotherapist who learns about child abuse from a patient is already required to notify police.
Daniel Willick, an attorney who represented the California Psychiatric Association and the National Association of Social Workers, said the organizations believe the court went too far by requiring therapists to reveal an offender's private information. They had argued that disclosure should be limited to whether the offender cooperated with the therapy and was making progress.
"My clients are concerned that the complete waiver of confidentiality for disclosure by a therapist to a probation officer and polygraph examiner will destroy the effectiveness of the therapy," Willick said.
The case is People vs. Garcia, S218197.
(c)2017 the San Francisco Chronicle