- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2006

RICHMOND (AP) — The Virginia Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the state wrongly initiated civil-commitment proceedings against a Richmond man convicted of rape.

The court ruled that, before the state can commit a sex offender, an inmate must reach a certain score on the Rapid Risk Assessment for Sex Offender Recidivism.

The state’s civil commitment law requires that test to be administered to sex offenders by the Department of Corrections to identify potential sexually violent predators.

Ellis Lorenzo Miles, who was sentenced to six years in prison in 1995, challenged a Richmond Circuit Court order that he be involuntarily committed after his release.

Miles argued that his score of 3 points out of 6 possible points on the risk assessment made him ineligible for civil commitment proceedings because the cutoff score is 4 points.

As part of his civil-commitment assessment, a state-appointed psychologist found that Miles suffered from a personality disorder with anti-social traits and he was likely to commit other sexually violent crimes after finishing his prison term.

The state acknowledged that its evaluators initially gave Miles an erroneous score of 4 but corrected it to 3.

The state attorney general’s office argued that the use of the risk-assessment exam scores was “merely a convenient, objective way of narrowing the prison population who will undergo the civil commitment review process” and not a requirement.

The Supreme Court disagreed and reversed the Circuit Court’s civil-commitment order, saying the lower court erred in allowing the state to initiate the proceedings against Miles.

The law’s intent was unambiguous, Justice Barbara Milano Keenan wrote in the court’s opinion, and courts “may not assign the words a construction that amounts to holding that the General Assembly did not mean what it actually stated.”

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