New Hampshire’s Civil Commitment Law is Flawed

Posted by Ryan Russman | Oct 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

Passed in 2007, the New Hampshire's Civil Commitment Law was designed to keep sexually violent predators incarcerated if they are likely to offend because of a mental abnormality. The process, complex and deeply restricted, has not been widely used and carries serious flaws.

Civil Commitment Law

The civil commitment law was designed to keep sexually violent predators from being released after completing treatment, if they are likely to reoffend. County attorneys receive notification when an inmate who has committed an applicable crime nears their release date. If the attorney is concerned that the inmate has not been successfully rehabilitated, a multidisciplinary team of psychologists and psychiatrists who specialize in sexual offenses is brought in to review the case. If the inmate is deemed to be a sexually violent predator by a jury, their sentence can be extended in five-year increments.

However, if a jury decides the inmate is not likely to re-offend, the inmate is released. Unfortunately, the predator law does not include other options such as supervision or alternative sentences that could help with an inmate's transition back into society.

Predator Law Evidence Limited, Funding Challenging

Another issue with the predator law is limited evidence. Prosecutors are finding that a primary piece of evidence, the Static -99R, a risk-based assessment used by psychiatrists to determine the chances of recidivism, is being limited by judges, rendering the assessment nearly useless. Attorneys are looking to lawmakers to establish a standard for the assessments and expert opinion.

Filing a civil commitment petition is an expensive process, costing nearly 10 times more than most cases at $30,000 largely in part because of the time experts put in reviewing case files and offering testimony; an expense that many offices haven't budgeted for.

While lawmakers expected to make changes to the law in time, as it was used and any problems defined, its limited use has prevented all but the most minor tweaks. In fact, the law has only been used 34 times since its inception, resulting in 11 predator reviews since 2007.

About the Author

Ryan Russman

Attorney Ryan Russman has dedicated his career to fighting for the rights of New Hampshire citizens. His practice, based in Exeter (Rockingham County) New Hampshire, is limited to cases involving DWI and DUI, other motor vehicle and criminal cases, and many cases involving personal injury. He is, however, best known as one of New Hampshire's leading legal authorities on DWI.


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