In a case, the United States Supreme Court held that a civil commitment proceeding can in no sense be equated with a criminal proceeding. There, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the clear and convincing standard of proof required by the Texas statute in civil confinement proceedings for the mentally ill, finding that, unlike in a criminal commitment proceeding, the state’s power in a civil commitment proceeding is not exercised in a punitive sense. The Court noted that, historically, the standard of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt has been reserved for criminal cases and that the weighing of the interests of the state against those of the person(s) subject to the statute is different in a civil context than in a criminal context.
In 1997, in another case, the Supreme Court upheld a comparable Kansas civil commitment statute for sex offenders, explicitly rejecting the assertion that the statute violated the Ex Post Facto Clause of the U.S. Constitution. There, the Court found that the Kansas sex offender civil commitment statute — which is similar to New York’s statutory scheme – raised no ex post facto issues because the statute was civil in nature and imposed no retroactive punishment.
If the Court finds that the Legislature intended to establish a civil proceeding, the inquiry must continue. The next step requires the court to determine whether the statute is so punitive, either in purpose or in effect, as to negate the intended civil purpose.
In a later case, the Supreme Court held that, in this second step of the inquiry, a court should be guided by the seven factors which it had first outlined in an early case: (1) whether the sanction involves an affirmative disability or restraint; (2) whether it has historically been regarded as a punishment; (3) whether it comes into play only upon a finding of science; (4) whether its operation will promote traditional aims of punishment-retribution and deterrence; (5) whether the behavior to which it applies is already a crime; (6) whether an alternative purpose to which it may rationally be connected is assignable for it; and (7) whether it appears excessive in relation to the alternative purpose assigned.
The Ex Post Facto Clause of the Constitution of the United States provides, in relevant part, that “no ex post facto law shall be passed.” The United States Supreme Court has defined an ex post facto law as one which “punishes as a crime an act previously committed, which was innocent when done, which makes more burdensome the punishment for a crime, after its commission, or which deprives one charged with crimes of any defense available according to law at the time when the act was committed.
As set forth below, the Court finds that Section10.07(c), which provides that persons who committed felony that were not sex offenses before SOMTA may be subject to the civil management provisions of SOMTA, does not violate the Ex Post Facto Clause.
Even though, as noted below, the Court finds that the Legislature’s intent was to establish a statute civil in nature, the inquiry does not end there. The Court must also determine, even if the intent was civil, whether the statute is so punitive, either in purpose or in effect, as to negate the State’s intent that it be a civil proceeding. Only the “clearest proof” will be sufficient to overcome the presumption that a statute by which the Legislature intended to establish a civil process is actually criminal in nature.
To Be cont…