Lauren Standlee


Given the public's fear and anxiety regarding sex offenders, especially those who target children, society is predisposed to lock them up and throw away the key. To avoid reproach, however, our society must trust in our judicial processes and involuntarily commit only those who are found to be sexually violent predators beyond a reasonable doubt. Furthermore, the judicial system must unconditionally release sexually violent predators when they are deemed to no longer pose a danger to themselves or to others. The methods by which our society commits and holds such individuals implicate not only their behavior but also our own, for "[t]he degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." Part II of this article discusses the facts and holding of In re Van Orden, the case at bar. The legal background, Part III, addresses relevant case law from the Supreme Court of the United States, as well as the reasons courts have always deemed SVP laws civil statutes rather than criminal. Part III proceeds to discuss Missouri's SVP Act and the pertinent 2006 amendments. After addressing Addington v. Texas, the seminal Supreme Court case on which Van Orden based its holding, Part IV analyzes the Van Orden decision itself. Finally, in Part V, this article concludes that In re Van Orden constituted a blemish on the Missouri legislature and judiciary alike. Missouri, along with other states, must recognize that SVP proceedings are akin to criminal trials and that their result-indefinite and involuntary confinement-resembles criminal punishment. States, therefore, should require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

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