U.S. Supreme Court Rules Federal Civil Commitment Statute is Constitutional: Sex Offenders Can Be Kept in Custody Even After Prison Term Ends

By: Wallin & Klarich

In United States v. Comstock, No. 08-1224, the United States Supreme Court recently held that the federal government properly has power under the “Necessary and Proper Clause” to enact a civil commitment statute for “mentally ill, sexually dangerous” federal prisoners, maintaining them in custody beyond the expiration of their criminal sentence.

The civil commitment statute, 18 U.S.C. § 4248, requires a federal prisoner who has been convicted of a sexual violent crime to remain in federal custody even after the prison sentence expires if the prisoner is deemed to be sexually dangerous to others. This means that a sex offender can potentially remain in federal custody for the rest of his or her life, even if they finished the prison term that was sentenced.

In Comstock, five respondents challenged the U.S. Department of Justice’s efforts to civilly commit them to federal custody. The respondents prison term was about to end and they were about to be released. The government wanted to keep them in custody pursuant to the civil commitment statute.

Civil commitment is even harsher because the prisoners can be deemed sexually dangerous to others for any reason. The reasons do not have to relate to the federal crime that the prisoner committed. The government need only prove these claims by “clear and convincing evidence.”

California has a similar civil commitment statute under Welfare & Institutions Code Section 6600. The main difference is that the prisoner would be kept under state custody instead of federal custody.

The consequences of committing a sex crime in California are serious. If you commit a sex crime in California, you are at risk of facing state and federal charges. A conviction in either state or federal court could result in you being in custody for the rest of your life.

If you or a loved one is facing a sex crime charge, it is critical that you speak with an experienced sex crimes attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in handling sex crimes cases. Our attorneys will aggressively fight to defend your rights. We will fight any attempt from the government to keep you in custody pursuant to the civil commitment statute. Call us today at (888) 749-0034 or contact us through our website at www.wklaw.com. We will be there when you call.

Posted In: Sex Offenses