Monday, December 10, 2012

Non-Specific DSM Disorder Can Justify Commitment

US v. Caporale: Caporale finished serving a sentence in 2008 for a sex offense, at which time the Government filed a motion to have him committed as a "sexually dangerous person" under the Adam Walsh Act.  At a hearing in March (the case was put on hold while cases addressing the constitutionality of the commitment provision were litigated), the district court denied the Government's motion, on two grounds.  First, it found that Caporale did not suffer from a serious mental illness, abnormality, or disorder because he was not diagnosed with a particular condition listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual or Mental Disorders ("DSM").  Second, it found that, if Caporale was released, he would not have serious difficulty refraining from sexually violent conduct or child molestation.

The Government appealed to the Fourth Circuit (Caporale's release was stayed pending appeal), which affirmed the district court's conclusion, but only on the second ground.  On the first ground, the court concluded that the definition of "mental disorder or defect" is not limited to specified diagnoses set forth in the DSM.  In Caporale's case, the diagnosis of hebephilia meets that definition (as well as fitting into the "paraphilia/NOS" catch all in the DSM).  On the second ground, the court emphasized its limited ability to reject the district court's factual findings under an abuse of discretion standard that the district court did not clearly err by crediting the defense expert's testimony that Caporale's recent behavior (as opposed to his more serious criminal conduct in the past) showed he was not a risk to reoffend.

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