How Does Civil Commitment Work for Texas Sex Offenders?

December 21st, 2018 by Tad Nelson in Sex Crime

When it comes to sex crimes, a defendant may face additional confinement even after completing their prison sentence. Texas law authorizes prosecutors to seek “civil commitment” of individuals believed to be “sexually violent predators.” Civil commitment requires a separate jury trial. If prosecutors can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant meets the statutory definition of a sexually violent predator, the judge will issue a commitment order, which takes effect once the defendant is released from prison.

Unlike a criminal sentence, a civil commitment can last indefinitely. The law states a defendant must remain in “treatment and supervision” until such time as his or her “behavioral abnormality has changed to the extent that the person is no longer likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence.”

Court: Defendant’s “Pedophilic Disorder” Supports Jury’s Commitment Verdict

Here is an illustration of how the civil commitment law works in practice. In this case, a defendant was serving a prison term for three sexual assault convictions where the victims were children. The defendant pleaded guilty to all three charges. In brief, he admitted to sexually abusing his two stepdaughters, and the daughter of a girlfriend, over a period of several years.

Prosecutors sought a civil commitment order. The jury received evidence regarding the defendant’s prior convictions, as well as evidence regarding several other allegations of child sexual abuse where the defendant was never formally charged with a crime. Of critical note, the jury also heard from psychologists who testified as expert witnesses. The state’s primary expert told the jury the defendant suffered from “pedophilic disorder nonexclusive-type attracted of females,” which meant the defendant “was attracted to children as well as same-age peers.” The expert further diagnosed the defendant with “antisocial personality disorder,” which “allows sex offenders to victimize people without remorse.”

A psychologist retained by the defense agreed he suffered from pedophilic disorder, but added that “she did not believe that condition alone makes him likely to re-offend.” Indeed, the defense psychologist said that based on her examinations, the defendant “not meet the statutory definition that applies to classifying a person as a sexually violent predator,” as there was only a “low to moderate” risk he would commit another sexual offense if released from prison.

The jury ultimately believed the state’s experts and declared the defendant a sexually violent predator. The Court of Appeals upheld the jury’s verdict. The appeals court noted the defendant did not contest two critical points: That he was a “repeat violent sexual offender” and that his own doctor confirmed he suffered from pedophilic disorder. There was also evidence that the defendant was not responding to sex offender treatment while in prison. For instance, he continues to deny committing the crimes for which he pleaded guilty. All of this supported a “rational jury” verdict in favor of civil commitment.

Speak with a Houston Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer Today

Persons convicted of sex crimes face an uphill battle to prevent civil commitment. This is why it is especially crucial to work with an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney who can help you fight the original sex crimes charges. If you have been charged with a sexually based offense, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Houston, Galveston, or League City today.


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