The Ohio Supreme Court last Monday held that "the involuntary commitment of a criminal defendant who is charged with a violent first or second-degree felony and who remains mentally incompetent to stand trial beyond the one-year statutory time frame for restoring competency does not violate that person's constitutional rights to due process or equal protection," and, further, that, because the commitment process set forth in R.C. 2945.39 is civil in nature, the state is not required to afford a person committed to a mental health facility under that statute the same constitutional rights afforded to a defendant in a criminal prosecution.” [ State v. Williams, 2008-2424 ( Case )( Court’s Summary ) ] [ See also ORC §2945.38 re one-year statutory time frame in Ohio, and §2945.401 re “incompetency finding or insanity acquittal, continuing jurisdiction of court ]
"With regard to the civil or criminal nature of Williams' commitment proceedings, Justice Cupp wrote: 'Our consideration of R.C. 2945.39 and related statutes leads us away from the view that the commitment of an incompetent defendant under R.C. 2945.39 is the functional equivalent of criminally confining the defendant. Nor do we see any indication of an overriding intent to punish or confine criminal defendants within the statutory framework. Rather, we view R.C. 2945.39 and related statutes as designed primarily for the purpose of protecting the public. In particular, we note that R.C. 2945.39(D)(1), which requires the trial court to order the least-restrictive commitment alternative available consistent with public safety and the defendant’s welfare ... explicitly states the court ‘shall give preference to protecting public safety.’ This statement gives voice to the predominant intent underlying R.C. 2945.39.
" ... Moreover, R.C. 2945.39 ... does not require a finding of scienter (intentional wrongdoing), nor does it implicate retribution or deterrence, which are the primary objectives of criminal punishment and the two most telling factors that a particular statute is criminal in nature. ... R.C. 2945.39 does not implicate retribution, because it does not affix culpability for prior criminal conduct. ... We conclude that R.C. 2945.39 is a civil statute. Consequently, a person committed under the statute need not be afforded the constitutional rights afforded to a defendant in a criminal prosecution."
A similar case on the federal level was handed down last week by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Comstock, where that Court held “Federal law allows a district court to order the civil commitment of a mentally ill, sexually dangerous federal prisoner beyond the date he would otherwise be released under 18 U. S. C. §4248.”