Uncontrollable Urges and Irrational People

52 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2001

See all articles by Stephen Morse

Stephen Morse

University of Pennsylvania Law School


"Uncontrollable Urges and Irrational People" addresses the fundamental issue the Supreme Court will decide this term in In re Crane: the constitutionally acceptable standard for indefinite involuntary civil commitment of mentally abnormal sexual predators. It makes four principal arguments. First, it claims that genuine non-responsibility should be a necessary, limiting precondition for indefinite involuntary commitment, and that the "loss of control" language in the Court's opinion in Hendricks should be understood as a proxy for non-responsibility generally. Second, it argues that loss of control standards, as criteria for non-responsibility, are unworkable. The essay next turns to "causal link" standards of the type Kansas proposes in Crane, which permit a potentially violent predator to be confined if a mental abnormality predisposes the person to commit future acts of violence. It claims that causal link standards are over-inclusive, and, properly understood, are not non-responsibility standards at all. Causal link standards are therefore an unjustifiable threat to liberty. Finally, the essay proposes that a lack of capacity for rationality is a genuine and workable non-responsibility standard that could properly justify and limit indefinite involuntary commitment.

Suggested Citation

Morse, Stephen J., Uncontrollable Urges and Irrational People. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=293368 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.293368

Stephen J. Morse (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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