Competence to proceed in SVP commitment hearings: Irrelevant or fundamental due process right?



Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) civil commitment, intended to incapacitate offenders and protect the public, has been implemented in 21 jurisdictions. While respondents in traditional civil commitment proceedings need not be competent to proceed, SVP commitment may present a greater deprivation of liberty and therefore greater procedural protections may be merited. Statutes and case law regarding competence in this context address two issues: competence to challenge unproven sexual offense allegations and competence to participate in the SVP commitment process. Of the 14 states that have addressed the issue, one concluded that respondents must be competent to challenge unproven allegations and one concluded that all SVP respondents must be competent to participate in the commitment process. Differences between SVP and traditional civil commitment, the rationale underlying the competence requirement, and decisions regarding competence in SVP commitment are reviewed to inform debate regarding whether SVP respondents must be competent to proceed with the commitment process. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.