Supreme Court Upholds Indefinite Incarceration for the "Sexually Dangerous"

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that federal officials can indefinitely hold inmates considered sexually dangerous, even after they have completed their prison sentences.  

The ruling overturns a lower court decision that claimed Congress overstepped its authority in enacting a law that allows indefinite detention of sexually dangerous inmates. The act in question is the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act, signed in 2006 by President George W. Bush.  

Details of the Law

The act authorizes civil commitment of sexually dangerous federal inmates.  The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act also established the sex offender registry, increased penalties for federal crimes against children, and strengthened protection from child pornography.  The only challenged aspect of the Act is the civil commitment of federal inmates deemed sexually dangerous.

According to Justice Stephen Breyer, "The statute is a 'necessary and proper' means of exercising the federal authority that permits Congress to create federal criminal laws, to punish their violation, to imprison violators, to provide appropriately for those imprisoned and to maintain the security of those who are not imprisoned by who may be affected by the federal imprisonment of others."

The inmates challenging the law were convicted of possession of child pornography (read more here)  or sexual abuse of a minor (more information here).  Though their incarceration was supposed to have ended more than two years ago, the men are still confined, as authorities have determined that the men are sexually dangerous, or a risk for sexually violent behavior or child molestation if they are released.

Dissenters in the Supreme Court's decision included Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Antonin Scalia.  Thomas stated in his dissension that nothing in the Constitution "expressly delegates to Congress the power to enact a civil commitment regime for sexually dangerous persons, nor does any other provision in the Constitution vest Congress or the other branches of the federal government with such a power,"  and that Congress can only pass laws that deal with federal powers specifically outlined in the Constitution.

The Supreme Court's ruling only affects those convicted of federal sex crimes.  State laws dealing with the civil commitment of sex offenders and those convicted of child sexual assault are not affected by the ruling. If you have been charged with a sex crime in Oklahoma, contact an attorney who specializes in sex-related crimes immediately to protect your rights and your freedoms.