The Missouri Supreme Court has backed up lower bench findings that the state’s Sexually Violent Predator Act is constitutional.

 

The Missouri Supreme Court Building in Jefferson City

The high court released two unanimous decisions in cases that had challenged the law which allows for prisoners convicted of a sexually violent crime to be committed indefinitely.

Such offenders can be turned over to the custody of the state Department of Mental Health if there is probable cause to believe that they are likely to engage in sexually violent predatory criminal behavior upon their release.

Lawyer Chelsea Mitchell told the judges they should scrap the law because it doesn’t allow for those who are declared Sexually Violent Predators to ever be unconditionally released.  “The statute on its face is punitive because it would never allow discharge” said Mitchell.

In court documents filed by Mitchell, she contended the Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Act is punitive, and in violation of the constitution because it doesn’t provide protections such as the Double Jeopardy clause (where a person can’t be prosecuted for the same crime twice).

The state countered that those protections only apply if the act is criminal in nature, and noted the Missouri high court has already held the Sexually Violent Predator Act to be civil, not criminal, in nature.  The Supreme Court reaffirmed its previous decision in its findings released Tuesday.

Both 6-0 decisions were written by Judge Paul C. Wilson in appeals involving Carl Kirk and Jay Nelson.  Read Missourinet’s coverage of arguments made before the Supreme Court over the Sexually Violent Predator Act here.