Missouri Court Rules Individual Need Not Be Competent before a Sexually Violent Predator Commitment Hearing Can Be Held; Supreme Court Declines Review

Article excerpt

Many states in recent years have enacted laws that permit convicted sexual offenders to be civilly committed as a sexually violent predator upon the completion of their criminal sentence. It is well established that a criminal defendant must be competent to stand trial before the defendant can be convicted.

The question arose in Missouri whether a person facing commitment as a sexually violent predator must similarly be competent to understand the nature of the proceedings and to assist counsel in his defense. A Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that competence was not required. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review this ruling.

The Missouri appellate court cited the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Kansas v. Crane, 521 U.S. 346 (1997), that held that a similar sexually violent predator commitment scheme was civil in nature and not criminal. The Missouri court then determined that there is no requirement in general that a person for whom civil commitment is sought be competent to stand trial. …