Kansas v. Hendricks

521 U.S. 346, 117 S. Ct. 2072 (1997)



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.


Inmate was committed as a sexually violent predator after the trial court found that pedophilia was a mental abnormality as defined by Kan. Stat. Ann. § 59-29a02(b) (1994). On Appeal with the Kansas Supreme Court, the inmate contested the act for violation of his substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment since the trial court’s definition of mental illness did not conform to the United States Supreme Court’s definition of mental illness. The Kansas Supreme Court reversed.


Is the act which required civil commitment to those convicted of sexually violent offenses constitutional?




The court 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. Kan. Stat. Ann. § 59-29a02(a) (1994). As the Act did not establish criminal proceedings and because the involuntary confinement pursuant to the Act was not punitive, inmate's 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 inmate 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.

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.