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SOMTA… cont

The court ruled as follows:

Firstly, the respondent argued that the designation of a non-sexual offense committed prior to the effective date of SOMTA as sexually motivated violates the Ex Post Facto clause of the United States Constitution.

In the case of Smith v. Doe in 2003 held that, citing the seven factors articulated by the Supreme Court in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez in 1963, the Mendoza-Martinez factors were “useful guideposts” in an inquiry as to whether a statute challenged on ex post facto grounds had a punitive effect. The Mendoza-Martinez factors are: whether the sanction involves an affirmative disability or restraint; whether it has historically been regarded as a punishment; whether it comes into play only on a finding of scienter; whether its operation will promote the traditional aims of punishment-retribution and deterrence; whether the behavior to which it applies is already a sex crime; whether an alternative purpose to which it may rationally be connected is assignable for it; and, whether it appears excessive in relation to the alternative purpose assigned. The Mendoza-Martinez factors were not intended to be applied mechanically. The analysis does not call for a court to simply add up the factors and then determine how many are in each column.

Here, the Court has determined that four of the Mendoza-Martinez factors weigh towards a finding that the statute is not punitive and three of them point towards the opposite conclusion. A consideration of those factors as a whole, however, further supports the view that the retroactive sexually motivated felony designation is not punitive. SOMTA obviously may result in the restraint of persons covered by the statute. But “the mere fact that a person is detained does not inexorably lead to the conclusion that the government has imposed punishment”. A statute’s “rational connection to a non punitive purpose is a most significant factor in our determination that the statute’s effects are not punitive”. In the Court’s view, it is obvious here that the Legislature rationally designed the retroactive sexually motivated felony designation to provide for the treatment and management of rape offenders suffering from a mental abnormality for the purpose of protecting public safety.

The fact that a number of the Mendoza-Martinez factors weigh in favor of a finding that SOMTA imposes punishment arises from the fact that the statute has a number of the attributes of a criminal proceeding. It imposes confinement. It applies only to convicted felons. It incorporates many of the protections and procedures of the criminal law. It is designed to protect public safety. However, the intention of the Legislature must be given great weight, that is, an essentially civil procedure. As held, only the “clearest proof” is sufficient to construe a statute which the Legislature intended as civil into a criminal proceeding. That standard has not been met here.

Thus, the respondent’s motion to dismiss the petition on ex post facto grounds was denied.
Secondly, the respondent argued that different standards of required proof of “sexual motivation” depending on the date of an offender’s crime violates due process and equal protection.

Where an offender is alleged to be a sex offender in need of civil management because he committed a sexually motivated felony subsequent to SOMTA’s effective date, an offender can only be eligible for civil management if the sexual motivation was found by a criminal jury by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Where such a sexual motivation is alleged to have occurred for a Designated Felony committed prior to SOMTA’s effective date, however, the sexual motivation finding must be made by a civil management jury using the lower standard of clear and convincing evidence. Child pornography was not involved.

To Be Cont….

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