Federal Court Turned Down Sex-Offender Commitment Law

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A federal appeals court has ruled that the prolonged federal civil commitment of sexual offenders under Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act is unconstitutional. The court struck down a 2006 federal law that allows indefinite civil commitment of “sexually dangerous” inmates beyond the length of their prison terms. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled in January in the case U.S. v. Comstock that Congress intruded on powers reserved for the states through civil-commitment provisions it included in the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (PL 109-248). The ruling, which affirmed a lower court ruling in the case, was the first time a federal appeals court addressed the legality of the federal commitment law. The ruling is binding only in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Maryland.

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