The Allen Court decided the issue of whether proceedings under the Illinois Sexually Dangerous Persons Act are ‘‘criminal,’’ such that they open the door to the Fifth Amendment’s protection against selfincrimination.
Allen began when the Circuit Court charged Allen with the crimes of unlawful restraint and deviate sexual assault. The State of Illinois filed a petition to have him declared a sexually dangerous person under the Illinois Dangerous Persons Act. Pursuant to the act, the Court ordered Allen to undergo two psychological evaluations. During trial, the state presented testimony about the evaluation results. Allen objected, claiming that the state elicited information from him in violation of his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. The Court determined that Allen was a sexually dangerous person under the act.
The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the Illinois Supreme Court. Both courts held that the Fifth Amendment privilege was not available in sexually dangerous person proceedings because those proceedings are civil in nature and Fifth Amendment protections extend only to criminal proceedings. However, Allen’s statements to the court-ordered psychological evaluator could not be used against him in any subsequent criminal proceeding.
In examining the issue, the Court determined that the act was civil in nature because its goal was to provide treatment, not punishment, to persons whom the Court found to be ‘‘sexually dangerous.’’ The act failed to promote retribution or deterrence, the traditional aims of punishment, and its text clearly stated that it was to be a civil act.
Illinois restricted the scope of the act by requiring the state to file criminal charges against a person before the state could file a petition asking the Court to determine whether that person was sexually dangerous. The limitation of the scope of the act to persons with criminal charges, rather than the mentally ill population at large, did not transform the civil proceeding into a criminal one. Strict procedural safeguards failed to alter the nature of the proceedings, as did the commitment of sexually dangerous persons to a maximum-security institution also housing convicts in need of psychological care. Involuntary commitment alone did not trigger criminal procedure protections, as noted in Addington v. Texas, 441 U.S. 418 (1979), and the state met its treatment goals by committing sexually dangerous persons to institutions designed to provide psychological care.
The Court found that the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause did not require the application of the Fifth Amendment self-incrimination privilege to be applied to the act because the constitutional purpose of the privilege was not to enhance the reliability of fact-finding determinations. Procedurally, the act satisfied the Court by requiring the state to prove more than just the commission of a sexual assault.
Allen has helped states discover the bounds of mental health proceedings. It guides them in fashioning legislation directed toward mentally ill persons, specifically sexually dangerous persons, and it further defines the scope of the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
ALISON P. RIVCHUN
References and Further Reading
Cases and Statutes Cited
See also In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967)