“The Clearest Proof”: Constitutional Concerns Surrounding the Illinois Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act

Solomon, Ethan | May 7, 2024

The Illinois General Assembly enacted the Sexually Violent Persons Commitment Act (SVPCA) in 1998, allowing the State to petition for the indefinite detention of those who have committed sexually violent crimes if those individuals have mental illnesses that predispose them to commit further crimes in the future. Although the United States Supreme Court has upheld similar state statutes as constitutional in the past, the SVPCA does not comport with the Court’s basic requirements for such statutes because it is functionally punitive and implicates traditional goals of punishment. Moreover, § 40(b)(5) of the SVPCA, which pertains to conditional release, violates two separate United States Supreme Court standards regarding the due process rights of civil committees. Although the state’s interest in protecting the public from sexually dangerous individuals is well-founded, and some people with mental illnesses must be confined for their own protection and that of others, sexually-violent-persons legislation represents a concerning expansion of the preventive state. Even if the General Assembly can cure the specific constitutional issues with the SVPCA, the question remains: is this kind of legislation the right way for the state to achieve the above goals?