THE CIRCUIT COURT OF CHESTERFIELD COUNTY David E. Johnson,
All the Justices
ARTHUR KELSEY, JUSTICE
Boyd Rickman appeals a civil-commitment order entered
pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predators Act, Code §
37.2-900 to -921 ("SVPA"). He claims that the
circuit court's violation of a scheduling deadline for
the initial probable-cause hearing required the circuit court
to dismiss with prejudice the SVPA petition. We hold that
this statutory procedural requirement, even if violated, did
not require the relief that Rickman seeks.
2003, Rickman was convicted of five counts of aggravated
sexual battery, two charges of forcible sodomy, one charge of
abduction of a minor, one charge of object sexual
penetration, one charge of taking indecent liberties with a
minor, and one charge of contributing to the delinquency of a
minor. The circuit court sentenced Rickman to 75 years of
imprisonment with 60 years suspended. The charges arose from
Rickman's sexual abuse of two biological children and two
step-children over a period of several years.
contemplation of his impending release from custody, on
August 28, 2015, the Commonwealth filed a petition to have
Rickman civilly committed. Pursuant to Code §
37.2-906(A)(ii), "the circuit court shall . . . schedule
a hearing within 90 days to determine whether probable cause
exists to believe that the respondent is a sexually violent
predator." This subsection further provides that
"[t]he respondent may waive his right to a hearing"
and that either party may request a continuance to extend the
hearing beyond 90 days "upon good cause shown or by
agreement of the parties." Code § 37.2-906(A)(ii).
Thus, the deadline for a probable-cause hearing was November
26, 2015, absent Rickman's waiver or a request for a
to set a date for the probable-cause hearing, the parties
exchanged a series of emails beginning in September 2015.
They attempted to find an available date for the assistant
attorney general, the Commonwealth's expert,
Rickman's court-appointed counsel, and the circuit court.
Rickman's counsel initially asked the assistant attorney
general for "suggested dates" within the 90-day
period. 1 J.A. at 77. The parties eventually settled on
January 8, 2016, as the most convenient and mutually
email to the assistant attorney general and to a circuit
court docket clerk, Rickman's counsel acknowledged that
she was available on January 8, 2016, but advised that she
"[would] need to note an objection" if the circuit
court set the hearing beyond the 90-day period. Id.
at 87. However, at no point prior to the expiration of the
90-day period did either party file a motion for a
continuance to extend the time for a hearing beyond 90 days
or otherwise seek the intervention of the court.
than two weeks after the expiration of the 90-day period,
Rickman filed a motion to dismiss the SVPA petition, claiming
that the circuit court had violated Code §
37.2-906(A)(ii). The circuit court initially granted the
motion to dismiss but later, upon the Commonwealth's
motion for reconsideration, denied it on the ground that
Rickman had acquiesced to a hearing date beyond the 90-day
period by failing to file an objection or motion to dismiss
with the circuit court before its expiration. The circuit
court's letter opinion suggested that, had there been no
such acquiescence, the only appropriate remedy for the
scheduling violation would be to dismiss the SVPA petition.
Id. at 280 (reasoning that "[i]f [the statute]
is mandatory, the [c]ourt must determine if [Rickman]
acquiesced to a date beyond the 90 days"); see also
id. at 134.
the course of several hearings, the circuit court found
probable cause that Rickman was a sexually violent predator
and subsequently addressed the merits of the SVPA petition.
Upon reviewing the factors set forth in Code §
37.2-912(A), the circuit court determined that Rickman needed
secure inpatient treatment "and that his conditional
release [would] present an undue risk to public safety."
2 id. at 547-48. The circuit court civilly committed
Rickman, finding "no suitable less restrictive
alternative to involuntary, secure inpatient treatment."
Id. at 548.
argues on appeal that the SVPA petition should have been
dismissed with prejudice because the circuit court set the
probable-cause hearing beyond the 90-day period required by
Code § 37.2-906(A)(ii). Denying that he waived this
statutory right and pointing out that the circuit court never
entered a continuance order, Rickman contends the "plain
language of the statute" required that "the action
filed should be dismissed." Appellant's Br. at 14.
Any other view, Rickman ...