Civil Commitment

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Q: Some time ago, I was found guilty of a kind of abuse.  Just as I was about to be released from federal prison, the government sought ‘civil commitment’ for me – saying that I suffer from a mental illness.  It causes me to have serious difficulty in refraining from that kind of conduct.  I would pose a very high danger to the public if released.  Is this constitutional?

A: Yes.  The Constitution permits, and a statute allows, the federal government, as the custodian of its prisoners, to protect nearby and other communities from the danger that a mentally ill, sexually dangerous person may pose.  Of course, the government must prove its claims at a hearing.  You will be represented by counsel and will have an opportunity to subpoena witnesses, to testify, to present evidence and to confront and cross-examine witnesses.  The government must prove its claims by evidence that is ‘clear and convincing’.

Confinement in the federal facility will last until either (1) your mental condition improves to the point where you are no longer dangerous, in which case you will be released; or (2) some State assumes responsibility for your custody, care, and treatment, in which case you will be transferred to the State that takes this burden.  There will be a regimen of ongoing psychiatric and judicial review, including judicial hearings at your request at six-month intervals.

If you were infected with a communicable disease that threatened others, surely it would be necessary and proper for the government to refuse to release you among the general public, where you might infect others.  The law is that this holds true for mental illness, too.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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