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A Population at Risk: Civil Commitment of Substance Abusers after Kansas v. Hendricks

Mara Lynn Krongard
California Law Review
Vol. 90, No. 1 (Jan., 2002), pp. 111-163
DOI: 10.2307/3481307
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3481307
Page Count: 53
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A Population at Risk: Civil Commitment of Substance Abusers after Kansas v. Hendricks
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Abstract

In its 1997 decision, Kansas v. Hendricks, the U.S. Supreme Court radically changed the face of civil commitment. In finding the Kansas Sexually Violent Predators Act constitutional, the Court liberalized the first constitutional requirement for involuntary commitment from "mental illness" to a much broader "mental abnormality" standard, without correspondingly restricting the second requirement of dangerousness. The decision essentially authorizes states to civilly commit a broad range of individuals without sufficient due process protections. This Comment explores the possibilities for expansion of civil commitment in the wake of Hendricks. It argues that the holding was unjustifiably broad, focusing in particular on the potential danger facing substance abusers. In conclusion, it offers several suggestions for mitigating the potential misuse of this dangerous precedent.

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