Article 10, sex offenders, civil commitment, hearsay, hearsay evidence, New York


In twenty states throughout the country, the government may petition for the civil commitment of detained sex offenders after they are released from prison. Although processes differ among the states, the government must generally show at a court proceeding that a detained sex offender both suffers from a mental abnormality and is dangerous and that this combination makes a detained sex offender likely to reoffend. At such court proceedings, both the government and the respondent will present evidence to either the court or the jury on these issues. As in most court proceedings, hearsay evidence is inadmissible at sex offender civil commitment hearings unless it meets sufficient indicia of reliability or fits within an established exception to the general rule against hearsay.

On November 19, 2013, the New York State Court of Appeals determined that in sex offender civil commitment hearings, the best way to show that hearsay evidence regarding uncharged crimes and/or dropped charges meets sufficient indicia of reliability is to require live confrontation of the declarant. This Note argues, however, that neither the U.S. Constitution nor New York State's Civil Practice Law and Rules require live confrontation. In addition, live confrontation conflicts with the legislative intent of New York State's sex offender civil commitment statute and is detrimental to the psychological well-being of victims of sexual assault.