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In re Commitment of Price

Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana

May 26, 2017

IN RE COMMITMENT OF BILLY DEAN PRICE

          Submitted: April 6, 2017

         On Appeal from the 336th District Court Fannin County, Texas Trial Court No. CV-16-42488

          Before Morriss, C.J., Moseley and Burgess, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Bailey C. Moseley Justice.

         A jury determined that Billy Dean Price suffered from a behavioral abnormality that made him likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence. Accordingly, the trial court ordered Price committed to supervision and treatment pursuant to Chapter 841 of the Texas Health & Safety Code, titled "Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators." On appeal, arguing that his nolo contendere plea was inadmissible in this civil proceeding, Price contends that the trial court erred in admitting an Oklahoma conviction of attempted rape. He also argues that the trial court erred in overruling his objection to the State's use of a hypothetical during the cross-examination of Price's expert witness.

         We affirm the trial court's judgment because we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion (1) in admitting the Oklahoma conviction in this Chapter 841 case and (2) in overruling Price's objection to the State's hypothetical.

         I. Standard of Review

         In a civil proceeding, "[e]videntiary rulings are committed to the trial court's sound discretion." Bay Area Healthcare Grp., Ltd. v. McShane, 239 S.W.3d 231, 234 (Tex. 2007) (per curiam) (citing Interstate Northborough P'ship v. State, 66 S.W.3d 213, 220 (Tex. 2001)); see Good v. Baker, 339 S.W.3d 260, 270 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2011, pet. denied). "A trial court abuses [its] discretion when it acts without regard for guiding rules or principles." 17 U-Haul Int'l, Inc. v. Waldrip, 380 S.W.3d 118, 132 (Tex. 2012) (citing Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp. v. Malone, 972 S.W.2d 35, 43 (Tex. 1998)).

         II. No Abuse of Discretion in the Admission of the Oklahoma Conviction Is Shown

         Section 841.003 of the Texas Health and Safety Code sets forth the provisions by which a jury determines whether a person is a sexually violent predator subject to civil commitment. It provides,

(a) A person is a sexually violent predator for the purposes of this chapter if the person:

(1) is a repeat sexually violent offender; and
(2) suffers from a behavioral abnormality that makes the person likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence.

Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 841.003(a) (West Supp. 2016).

         Section 841.003 defines the first factor in the determination in the following manner: "A person is a repeat sexually violent offender for the purposes of this chapter if the person is convicted of more than one sexually violent offense and a sentence is imposed for at least one of the offenses." Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 841.003(b) (West Supp. 2016). The second factor-whether the person has a behavioral abnormality that makes the person likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence-is defined in Section 841.002, which contains the following definitions:

(2) "Behavioral abnormality" means a congenital or acquired condition that, by affecting a person's emotional or volitional capacity, predisposes the person to commit a sexually violent offense, to the extent that the person becomes a menace to the health and safety of another person.
(8) "Sexually violent offense" means:
(A) an offense under Section 21.02, 21.11(a)(1), 22.011, or 22.021, Penal Code;
(E) an attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation, as defined by Chapter 15, Penal Code, to commit an offense listed in Paragraph (A) . . .; [or]
(G) an offense under the law of another state . . . that contains elements substantially similar to the elements of an offense ...

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