Virginia Enacts Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Legislation during 2003 General Assembly
Tysinger, Allyson K., Walters, Karen A. D., Developments in Mental Health Law
Sixteen states, including Virginia, have laws providing for the civil commitment of sexually violent predators (SVP). (1) Virginia's SVP law was initially enacted in 1999 (2) but funds for the program were not appropriated and the law did not become effective. During the 2003 legislative session, amidst heavy publicity surrounding the impending release of a man convicted of a particularly egregious and shocking sexually violent crime, the Virginia General Assembly appropriated funds and made the law effective upon its enactment on April 2, 2003. (3) The 2003 General Assembly also made some substantive changes to the law itself.
Prior to the 2003 session, a "sexually violent predator" was defined as any person who was convicted of a sexually violent offense or charged with such an offense but found unrestorably incompetent to stand trial and who suffered from a mental abnormality or personality disorder. (4) In January 2002, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion in Kansas v. Crane, holding that while it was not necessary to show that a sexually violent predator had a complete lack of control over his behavior, there must at least be proof of serious difficulty in controlling behavior to permit a commitment under an SVP law. (5) To comport with this decision, the 2003 General Assembly amended Virginia's definition of sexually violent predator to mean any person who has been convicted of a sexually violent offense (6) or charged with such an offense but found unrestorably incompetent to stand trial and because of a mental abnormality or personality disorder, finds it difficult to control his predatory behavior which makes him likely to engage in sexually violent acts. (7)
The 2003 General Assembly also made amendments to the procedure used to commit a sexually violent predator. Under the Virginia law, the Director of the Department of Corrections is responsible for beginning the SVP commitment process for prisoners who have been convicted of sexually violent offenses. Prior to the …
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Publication information: Article title: Virginia Enacts Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Legislation during 2003 General Assembly. Contributors: Tysinger, Allyson K. - Author, Walters, Karen A. D. - Author. Magazine title: Developments in Mental Health Law. Volume: 23. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 2004. Page number: 6+. © 2009 Institute of Law, Psychiatry & Public Policy. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group.
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