Protecting Children and Families from Sexually Violent Predators
Washington has some of the strongest sex offender registration and notification laws in the nation and was the first state to implement involuntary civil commitment for the most dangerous sexual predators.
Every year about 1,000 sex offenders return to the community upon completion of their criminal sentences. Before their release, Level 3 offenders undergo a review to determine whether or not they should be referred for possible civil commitment to the McNeil Island Special Commitment Center (SCC) as a sexually violent predator.
Washington law defines an SVP as any person:
- Who has been convicted of or charged with a crime of sexual violence; and
- Who suffers from a mental abnormality or personality disorder;
- Which makes the person likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility.
If a judge finds offenders meet this criteria, they are held indefinitely at the SCC until their mental condition improves such that they may be released into society.
As of October 2014, there are 294 offenders in the Special Commitment Center Program.
The AGO’s Sexually Violent Predator Unit was created following the enactment of this law and is responsible for prosecuting sex predator cases for 38 of Washington’s 39 counties (King County being the exception). The expertise of the unit permits it to handle all aspects of sex predator cases, including pre-filing investigations, pre-trial motion practice, trial, post-commitment proceedings and appeals.
In Fiscal Year 2014, the unit tried 14 cases resulting in:
- 9 new sexually violent predators being committed;
- One being recommitted;
- One acquittal; and
- Three hung juries, meaning an offender may be detained for further commitment proceedings.