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MA Court : Civil Commitment Unconstitutional

March 14, 2009

Sexcrimes.typepad.com: Mass. District Court Finds Civil Commitment Law Unconstitutional

The United States District Court – District of Massachusetts ruled that the federal civil commitment scheme for sex offenders under the Adam Walsh Act was unconstitutional. You can read the opinion here.
From the opinion:

“Congress lacked power to adopt the Act’s regime for the civil commitment of sexually dangerous persons either under the Commerce Clause directly or as its authority over interstate commerce is supplemented by the Necessary and Prope Clause. The civil commitment regime for sexually dangerous persons set forth in 18 U.S.C. §§ 4247, 4248 is void and unenforceable. Accordingly, the respondent’s motion to dismiss the petition for commitment (dkt. no. 6) is GRANTED. Unless some other valid basis permits Volungus’s continued incarceration beyond the expiration of his term of imprisonment, he is to be released forthwith.”

The decision is notable because it creates a district court conflict in the 1st Circuit. However, the recent ruling is consistent with the 4th Circuit’s opinion in Comstock (which I think had the better side of the argument).

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