Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997)

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certiorari to the supreme court of kansas

No. 95-1649. Argued December 10, 1996—Decided June 23, 1997*

Kansas' Sexually Violent Predator Act establishes procedures for the civil commitment of persons who, due to a "mental abnormality" or a "personality disorder," are likely to engage in "predatory acts of sexual violence." Kansas filed a petition under the Act in state court to commit respondent (and cross-petitioner) 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 is not cured and that he continues to harbor sexual desires for children that he cannot control when he gets "stressed out," the jury determined that he was a sexually violent predator. Finding that pedophilia qualifies 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.

Held: 1. The Act's definition of "mental abnormality" satisfies "substantive" due process requirements. An individual's constitutionally protected liberty interest in avoiding physical restraint may be overridden even in the civil context. Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U. S. 11, 26. This Court has consistently upheld involuntary commitment statutes that detain people who are unable to control their behavior and thereby pose a danger to the public health and safety, provided the confinement takes place pursuant to proper procedures and evidentiary standards. Foucha v. Louisiana, 504 U. S. 71, 80. The Act unambiguously requires a precommitment finding of dangerousness either to one's self or to others, and links that finding to a determination that the person suffers from a "mental abnormality" or "personality disorder." Generally, this Court has sustained a commitment statute if it couples proof of dangerousness

*Together with No. 95-9075, Hendricks v. Kansas, also on certiorari to the same court.

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