OLYMPIA—In a trial starting this week in Clark County Superior Court, the Washington Attorney General’s Office is seeking to civilly commit a Clark County sex offender and prevent his release into the community.
Washington’s Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) law allows the state Attorney General’s Office (AGO) 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 state alleges that Richard Hatfield, 62, has committed two prior offenses that qualify him to be committed under the SVP law. In 1982, in California, Hatfield was convicted of Attempted Lewd and Lascivious Conduct with a Minor under 14. In 1998, in Clark County, Hatfield was convicted of Child Molestation in the First Degree. Hatfield originally had been scheduled to be released from prison in February 2012. However, because the state filed an SVP civil commitment petition against him, he has been confined at the state’s Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island pending trial.
In its civil commitment petition, the AGO SVP Unit alleges Hatfield suffers from both a mental abnormality and a personality disorder that cause him to have serious difficulty in controlling his dangerous behavior. SVP attorneys further allege that since the petition was filed in 2012, Hatfield’s mental state has significantly deteriorated and he is unable to control his sexually violent behavior. The court has appointed a guardian ad litem to make decisions for Hatfield.
The state’s 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 any and all of its allegations in court.
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 2013, the unit tried 19 cases, won 16 civil commitments and secured one recommitment. One trial ended in a hung jury and one offender was found by a jury not to meet criteria to be committed as a sexually violent predator.
As of October 2013, approximately 301 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.
Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725
Alison Dempsey-Hall, Dep. Communications Director, (206) 641-1335