VanDyke v. Texas

In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 746, a bill that amended several provisions within the Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act contained within the Health and Safety Code. The amendments removed a provision that had made it a criminal offense for a sexually violent predator who had been civilly committed to fail to comply with the terms of his sex offender treatment. Furthermore, the Legislature included a savings clause in S.B. 746 that made the legislation apply to anyone who had been convicted of the offense of violating the terms of his civil commitment and whose direct appeal of that criminal conviction was pending at the time the legislation became effective. When Governor Abbott signed S.B. 746 into law, it became effective immediately. Appellant Roger VanDyke's direct appeal of his criminal conviction for violating the terms of his civil commitment was pending at that time. After S.B. 746 became effective, Appellant filed a supplemental brief with the court of appeals arguing that his conviction was not a final conviction and it should, therefore, be reversed because the amendment to Section 841.085 decriminalized his conduct. The court of appeals affirmed his conviction, holding that the savings clause in S.B. 746 violated the Separation of Powers Clause of the Texas Constitution. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Appellant’s petition for discretionary review on the sole issue of whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding that the savings clause in S.B. 746 usurped the governor’s clemency power. The Court reversed and vacated the judgment: "Both our Legislature and our governor have decided that a sexually violent predator’s failure to comply with his sex offender treatment program as part of his civil commitment should be resolved through the civil commitment program rather than give rise to a new criminal conviction. The Legislature was within its power to make this difficult legislative change and apply that change to defendants whose criminal cases were pending on appeal at the time the amendment became effective. We defer to the statute crafted by our Legislature and signed by our governor because this legislative act did not violate the Separation of Powers Clause in the Texas Constitution. Accordingly, we vacate Appellant’s judgment of conviction." View "VanDyke v. Texas" on Justia Law