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The Sexually Violent Predator Act, Kan. Stat. Ann. § 59-29a01 et seq. (1994), is plainly of a kind with other civil commitment statutes: It requires a finding of future dangerousness, and then links that finding to the existence of a "mental abnormality" or "personality disorder" that makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the person to control his dangerous behavior. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 59-29a02(b) (1994). The precommitment requirement of a "mental abnormality" or "personality disorder" is consistent with the requirements of other statutes that have been upheld in that it narrows the class of persons eligible for confinement to those who are unable to control their dangerousness.
Kansas' Sexually Violent Predator Act established procedures for the civil commitment of persons who, due to a "mental abnormality" or a "personality disorder," were likely to engage in "predatory acts of sexual violence." Kansas filed a petition under the Act in state court to commit Hendricks, who had a long history of sexually molesting children and was scheduled for release from prison. The court reserved ruling on Hendricks' challenge to the Act's constitutionality, but granted his request for a jury trial. After Hendricks testified that he agreed with the state physician's diagnosis that he suffers from pedophilia and that he continued to harbor sexual desires for children that he could not control when he got "stressed out," the jury determined that he was a sexually violent predator. Finding that pedophilia qualified as a mental abnormality under the Act, the court ordered him committed. On appeal, the state supreme court invalidated the Act on the ground that the precommitment condition of a "mental abnormality" did not satisfy what it perceived to be the "substantive" due process requirement that involuntary civil commitment must be predicated on a "mental illness" finding. It did not address Hendricks' ex post facto and double jeopardy claims.
Did the Sexually Violent Predator Act satisfy due process requirements?
The Supreme Court of the United States held that the Act satisfied due process requirements because it unambiguously required a finding of dangerousness either to one's self or to others as a prerequisite to involuntary confinement. Commitment proceedings were initiated only when a person had been convicted of or charged with a sexually violent offense and suffered from a mental abnormality or personality disorder that made the person likely to engage in the predatory acts of sexual violence. As the Act did not establish criminal proceedings and because the involuntary confinement pursuant to the Act was not punitive, Hendricks' involuntary detention did not violate the Double Jeopardy Clause, even though the confinement followed a prison term. Because the Act did not impose punishment, did not criminalize conduct legal before its enactment, or deprive Hendricks of any defense that was available to him at the time of his crimes, the Act was not impermissible under the Ex Post Facto Clause.