Kansas v. Hendricks

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Kansas v. Hendricks
Argued December 10, 1996
Decided June 23, 1997
Full case nameKansas v. Leroy Hendricks
Citations521 U.S. 346 (more)
117 S. Ct. 2072; 138 L. Ed. 2d 501
Case history
PriorIn re Hendricks, 259 Kan. 246, 912 P.2d 129 (1996); cert. granted, 518 U.S. 1004 (1996).
Reverses Kansas State Supreme Court and agrees with the state's procedures for the indefinite civil commitment procedures for sex offenders meeting the definition of a "mental abnormality" upon release from prison
Court membership
Chief Justice
William Rehnquist
Associate Justices
John P. Stevens · Sandra Day O'Connor
Antonin Scalia · Anthony Kennedy
David Souter · Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg · Stephen Breyer
Case opinions
MajorityThomas, joined by Rehnquist, O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy
DissentBreyer, joined by Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg
Laws applied
Due Process, Miscellaneous; Criminal Procedure, Ex Post Facto

Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court set forth procedures for the indefinite civil commitment of prisoners convicted of a sex offense whom the state deems dangerous due to a mental abnormality.


Under Kansas's Sexually Violent Predator Act (Act), any person who, due to "mental abnormality" or "personality disorder", is likely to engage in "predatory acts of sexual violence" can be indefinitely confined.[1] Leroy Hendricks and Tim Quinn had extensive histories of sexually molesting children. When they were due to be released from prison, Kansas filed a petition under the Act in state court to involuntarily commit Hendricks and Quinn. Hendricks and Quinn challenged the constitutionality of the Act and requested a trial by jury which the court granted. Hendricks and Quinn testified during the trial that they agreed with the diagnosis by the state psychiatrist that Hendricks and Quinn suffer from pedophilia and admitted that they continued to experience uncontrollable sexual desires for children when under extreme stress. The jury decided that they qualified as sexually violent predators. Since pedophilia is defined as a mental abnormality under the Act, the court ordered that Hendricks be civilly committed.[1]

Hendricks appealed the validity of his commitment as well as claiming that the state was unconstitutionally using ex post facto and double jeopardy law, to the State Supreme Court. The court ruled that the Act was invalid on the grounds that the condition of "mental abnormality" did not satisfy the "substantive" due process requirement that involuntary civil commitment must be based on the finding of the presence of a "mental illness". It did not address the claims of ex post-facto and double jeopardy.[1]

The Supreme Court granted Kansas' certiorari.


The Supreme Court ruled against Hendricks in a 5–4 decision. It agreed with the Act's procedures and the definition of a "mental abnormality" as a "congenital or acquired condition affecting the emotional or volitional capacity which predisposes the person to commit sexually violent offenses to the degree that such person is a menace to the health and safety of others."[2] It agreed with Kansas that the Act limits persons eligible for confinement to persons who are not able to control their dangerousness.

Further, the court decided the Act does not violate the Constitution's double jeopardy prohibition nor the ban on ex post-facto law because the Act does not establish criminal proceedings and therefore involuntary confinement under it is not punishment. Because the Act is civil, Hendricks' confinement under the Act is not a second prosecution nor is it double jeopardy. And finally, the court said the Act is not considered punitive if it fails to offer treatment for an untreatable condition.[1][3]


The court's finding that preventive long-term confinement of mentally disordered persons has previously been justified on the grounds that some people's behavior cannot be prevented, and it does not violate their rights to confine them to deter antisocial behavior. However, it has also been argued that upholding the Act expands involuntary civil commitment to people with personality disorders, possibly allowing for the commitment of large numbers of criminals if the proof of the likelihood of re-offending required is sufficiently inclusive, which could happen if the requirement of dangerousness is not limited to those with a mental illness, and that if mental abnormality (rather than mental illness) can be the basis for sex offender commitment, there is a danger that it may expand the basis for traditional civil commitment to personality disorders as well.[2]

In the subsequent Kansas v. Crane (2002), this decision was upheld for an individual that suffered from exhibitionism and antisocial personality disorder.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997).
  2. ^ a b "Psychological Evaluation for the Courts, Second Edition – A Handbook for Mental Health Professionals and Lawyers – 9.04 Special Sentencing Provisions (b) Sexual Offender Statutes". Guilford.com. Archived from the original on 2012-12-16. Retrieved 2007-10-19.
  3. ^ "Kansas v. Hendricks". oyez.org. 1997. Retrieved 2008-02-19.
  4. ^ Cripe, C.A.; Pearlman, M.G. (2004). Legal Aspects of Corrections Management. Jones and Bartlett Publishers. p. 248. ISBN 9780763725457. Retrieved 2014-12-13.

External links[edit]