A National Survey of United States Sexually Violent Person Legislation: Policy, Procedures, and Practice
International Journal of Forensic Mental Health Vol. 14 Iss. 4 (2015) p. 245 - 266
23 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2020 Last revised: 26 Jun 2020
Date Written: 2015
Sexually Violent Person (SVP) commitment statutes provide for indeterminate civil confinement of certain sex offenders after completion of their criminal sentences. In the United States, SVP laws raise important concerns relating to due process, ex post facto claims, and protection against double jeopardy. However, it is unclear to what extent current legislation addresses or neglects these issues. Without a systematic review of SVP legislation and related case law, it remains unknown to what degree U.S. states have incorporated different strategies to protect individual rights outlined by the U.S. Supreme Court. In this study, SVP statutes from each U.S. state, the federal government, and the District of Columbia, along with related case law, were examined to evaluate (1) the requirements of SVP confinement, (2) the procedures by which SVP hearings occur, and (3) the degree to which the requirements enumerated by the U.S. Supreme Court have been followed. Although nearly half of all states have SVP statutes, findings reveal that statutes differ considerably regarding standards of proof, commitment procedures, appeals standards, definitions of important terms, and procedural safeguards. Moreover, case law provides important information on how SVP laws actually operate. Findings are discussed in light of psychological, legal, and policy implications.
Keywords: Sexually Violent Person, Sexually Violent Predator, Legislation, Statute
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