Civil commitment of 24-year-old Minnesota sexual offender overturned

We previously covered the debate over the constitutionality of Minnesota's sex offender program. Many in the state concede that, rather than provide sex offenders with treatment and rehabilitation; the program serves as a permanent holding pen for nearly 700 individuals who have been convicted of a sex crime. In fact, since the program began in 1993, only two individuals have been "unconditionally released" from the program and six out of 450 have successfully had civil commitments overturned.

Today, a 24-year-old man, who has spent the last year-and-a-half in a secure sex offender facility in Moose Lake, is included amongst the few who have been successful in overturning a civil commitment. The man's commitment stemmed from events that took place in 2007 and 2008. In one incident, the then 17-year-old was found guilty of sexually assaulting another 17-year-old teen at a party. While on probation for that assault, he was accused of raping a 19-year-old woman. At the time both incidents occurred, the teen boy admitted to being under the influence of alcohol.

Prior to his civil commitment, the young man was "released on intensive supervised release". For roughly eight months, he took purposeful steps to turn his life around and seek the therapy and substance abuse treatment he desperately needed. However, despite his efforts and improvement, he was civilly committed and moved to a secure sex offender facility.

Legislators and legal experts throughout the state have spoken out about the young man's successful commitment reversal believing it to be an important step in bringing about changes to Minnesota’s one-size-fits-all" approach to dealing with sex offenders. Many argue individual's need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and that alternatives to what equates to "indefinite commitment" must be developed and considered.

The fate of the 24-year-old whose commitment was recently overturned is currently being debated. It's possible the country district court will choose to release the young man under intense supervision which would allow him to continue his efforts to deal with his issues and turn his life around. It's also possible; however, that the court may seek to once again have the man civilly committed.

As illustrated by this man's case, the penalties for Minnesotans convicted of sex crimes are extremely punitive. If facing criminal charges such as rape or sexual assault, it's important to seek the advice and assistance of a criminal defense attorney.

Source: The Star Tribune, "Minnesota Supreme Court reverses rapist’s commitment," David Chanen, April 23, 2014

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