Offender will remain confined pending commitment proceedings
COLVILLE — The Washington Attorney General’s Office has filed a petition in Stevens County Superior Court seeking to civilly commit a sex offender and prevent his release into the community.
Joseph Griffith, 34, will remain confined pending civil commitment proceedings. He was convicted in Snohomish County in 2000 of two counts of second-degree rape of a child, a sexually violent offense, and was sentenced to 14 years, two months in prison. He was released from confinement in 2012.
Following his release from prison in 2012, the state alleges, Griffith returned to Stevens County and committed one or more “recent overt acts,” demonstrating that he continues to present a danger to the community.
A “recent overt act” is defined as “any act, threat, or combination thereof that has either caused harm of a sexually violent nature or creates a reasonable apprehension of such harm in the mind of an objective person who knows of the history and mental condition of the person engaging in the act or behaviors.”
Griffith was recently incarcerated for violations of his supervision conditions and was due to be released on July 15, 2015, but the Attorney General’s Office petitioned to have him committed, alleging that he is mentally ill and sexually dangerous. Yesterday, a judge found probable cause to believe Griffith is a sexually violent predator, a preliminary ruling which allows the state to detain him for further proceedings.
Washington’s Sexually Violent Predator law allows the state Attorney General’s Office to petition for the civil commitment of violent sex offenders who, because of a mental abnormality and/or personality disorder, are proven likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual violence if released.
The civil commitment petition consists of allegations that have not yet been proven in a court of law. The State of Washington has the burden to prove the allegations in court.
“The Attorney General’s Office works hard to prevent the release of dangerous sexually violent offenders into our communities,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
In 1990, Washington became the first state in the nation to pass a law permitting the involuntary civil commitment of sex offenders after they have served their criminal sentences. The Attorney General’s SVP Unit was established shortly thereafter.
The AGO SVP unit is responsible for prosecuting sex predator cases for 38 of Washington’s 39 counties (King County being the exception). In Fiscal Year 2015, the unit tried 15 cases and won 10 civil commitments. Two trials ended in a hung jury and three offenders were found by juries not to meet criteria to be committed as a sexually violent predator.
As of March 2015, 292 sexually violent predators are in the state’s Special Commitment Program.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working hard to protect consumers and seniors against fraud, keep our communities safe, protect our environment and stand up for our veterans. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Peter Lavallee, Communications Director, (360) 586-0725; PeterL@atg.wa.gov