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Kansas v. Hendricks

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Hendricks (Defendant) was nearing the end of his prison sentence. The state used a recently enacted Sexually Violent Predator Act to order Defendant committed to a mental hospital upon his prison release. The Kansas Supreme Court invalidated the statute. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A statute allowing civil commitment and long-term treatment of individuals convicted of sexually violent offenses who suffer from mental abnormalities or personality disorders that make them likely to continue to commit sexually predatory behavior is constitutional.

    Facts.

    Defendant had been convicted of sexually molesting children on several occasions. Upon release from prison, Defendant would continue to offend. In 1984, after a conviction for indecent liberties, Defendant was scheduled to be released after serving ten years of his sentence. Kansas passed the Sexually Violent Predator Act around this same time and filed a petition to commit Defendant under the new Act. Defendant was a diagnosed pedophile and did not believe that he could be successfully treated. Under the Act, a jury found Defendant to be a sexually violent predator and Defendant appealed. The Kansas Supreme Court held the Act unconstitutional. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

    Issue.

    Is a statute allowing civil commitment and long-term treatment of individuals convicted of sexually violent offenses who suffer from mental abnormalities or personality disorders that make them likely to continue to commit sexually predatory behavior constitutional?

    Held.

    (Thomas, J.) Yes. A statute allowing civil commitment and long-term treatment of individuals convicted of sexually violent offenses who suffer from mental abnormalities or personality disorders that make them likely to continue to commit sexually predatory behavior is constitutional. Defendant argues that the Act violated his substantive due process rights, but states are permitted to forcibly restrain those who cannot control their behavior and become a danger to society. Defendant also claims that the Act violated the prohibition against double jeopardy because it allows further punishment for a crime for which he has already served his sentence. However, the statute provides for civil commitment and is intended to provide treatment, not punishment. The focus of the Act is on the mental abnormality, not on deterring an offender intent on committing a similar offense again. Because retribution and deterrence are not its aims, the Act does not create double jeopardy. Reversed.

    Discussion.

    The Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act is imposed only when the criminal sentence awarded a predator allows his release. When the offender is sentenced to life in prison the statute is unnecessary. The dissent argues that the statute is really a further criminal penalty disguised as a civil commitment.


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