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Washington Civil Commitment Trial Law Not Retroactive

Washington State’s Court of Appeals, Division I, has held that the Legislature’s amendment of RCW 71.09.090 did not apply retroactively, holding that amendment properly applies to prohibit new trials on commitment status for sexual predators on the sole basis of advancing age.

The Court held, previously, the RCW 71.090.070’s provision that a sexually violent predator’s conviction had “so changed” by the increase of age that a new trial on commitment must ensue. See: In Re The Detention of Young, 120 Wn. App. 753, 762, 86 P. 32 810, review denied, 152 Wn. 20 1007 (2004).

Based upon that decision, the detainee here moved for a new commitment trial. Before it occurred, the Legislature amended RCN 71.090.070 to prohibit such trials on the sole basis of “a change in chronological age, marital status, or gender of the committed person.” The detainee’s trial was cancelled as a result. He appealed.

The Appeals Court said the “Legislature is free to amend a statute in a way that contravenes a judicial construction of the original statute so long as the change does not operate retroactively. Since the detainee had not shown any previous action he took in reliance on the previous statute or an acquired right. “Growing older did not require an activity on his part,” the Court said. His expectation of the pre-2005 version of the law did not give him a vested right.

The Court affirmed denial of a new trial. In Re The Detention of Kim Smith, 137 Wash.App. 319, 153 P.3d 226 (2007).

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Related legal case

In Re The Detention of Kim Smith