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Individuals can be civilly committed after serving jail sentence

Washington was the first state in the nation to allow for involuntary commitment of alleged sex offenders after their criminal sentences have ended.  The Washington attorney general is now attempting to civilly commit a 60-year-old accused sex offender by claiming that he is unable to control his violent behavior.

Washington is now one of 20 states that have civil commitment laws for purported sexual predators.  Washington committed 16 individuals under these supposed grounds during 2013.  There are also 300 people being held under the state's civil commitment law.

Washington law defines a sexually violent predator as someone charged or convicted of a sexually violent crime, suffers from some sort of personality disorder or mental abnormality and is considered likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if released.  These individuals can be held indefinitely in a mental health facility until it appears that their mental condition has improved.

In the case of the 60-year-old man, he has been convicted twice on counts of criminal sex-related matters.  These arrests occurred in 1982 and 1988.  While he was scheduled to be released from prison in 2012, his release was held up after the state petitioned to have him civilly committed.  It is claimed he cannot control his behavior due a mental abnormality.

Due to the consequences of a conviction, anyone charged with a sex offense will require an experienced criminal defense attorney.  Individuals accused of sex crime charges in Washington may thus face criminal penalties and then a civil commitment after serving their sentence.  Attorneys can make certain that fairness remains in these court proceedings.

Source: The Oregonian, "Washington's attorney general seeks to civilly commit a 60-year-old sex offender," April 9, 2014

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