A blog of the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section

PA FlagBy Burt Rose
Click for Opinion
The Superior Court of Pennsylvania has issued a ruling in the case of COMMONWEALTH of Pennsylvania v. Dennis L. PRENDES, Appellant, No. 277 EDA 2013, 2014 WL 3586262, 2014 PA Super 151 (July 22, 2014), an appeal from a Judgment of Sentence of the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, CP–48–CR–0001246–2012. The Panel was composed of Judges GANTMAN, SHOGAN and PLATT. Judge Gantman wrote the Opinion for the Panel.

This Appellant pled guilty to indecent assault of a person under thirteen years old, endangering the welfare of children, and corruption of minors. At the plea colloquy, the trial judge asked the Appellant, “Did you touch [S.P.’s] vagina for the purpose of arousing sexual desire to yourself? The Appellant replied in the affirmative. On appeal, the Appellant challenged his SVP status as being based on inadmissible hearsay.

Given that an SVP hearing is not a trial and the primary purpose of the SVP registration requirements is to protect the public, not to punish the offender, the Commonwealth had only to prove Appellant was subject to SVP status by clear and convincing evidence. A SOAB expert’s opinion may be based on facts or data that the expert has been made aware of or personally observed so long as experts in the particular field reasonably rely on those kinds of facts or data in forming an opinion on the subject. The facts or data consulted need not be admissible for the expert’s opinion to be admitted.

The SOAB expert here, Dr. Valliere, stated unequivocally that Appellant met SVP classification based solely on the facts and admissions contained in the guilty plea colloquy, which established that Appellant had committed and been convicted of a sexually violent offense and had the mental abnormality of pedophilia. Dr. Valliere attested she had reviewed and relied on numerous written records as part of her assessment, including the arrest warrant, affidavit of probable cause, police reports, charge sheet, statements by the victim, and confirmed that these records are ones typically relied on in SOAB evaluations. Such facts or data consulted need not be admissible or proved beyond a reasonable doubt in order to find the expert opinion admissible. Therefore, the Court held that the SVP ruling would be affirmed.

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