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16 Howard L.J. 166 (1970-1971)
The Sexual Psychopath in the District of Columbia

handle is hein.journals/howlj16 and id is 182 raw text is: The Sexual Psychopath In The District of Columbia
The District of Columbia Sexual Psychopath Act1 was enacted in
1948 as a humane and practical approach to the problem of persons
unable to control their sexual emotions.'2 It reads, in part:
The term 'sexual psychopath' means a person, not insane, who by a
course of conduct has evidenced such lack of power to control his sexual
impulses as to be dangerous to other persons because he is likely to attack
or otherwise inflict injury, loss, pain, or other evil on the objects of his
Although the statute remains on the books, subsequent legislation and
cases have had a considerable impact on it; among those are the 1964
Hospitalization of the Mentally Ill Act,4 the Durham decision,5 and the
decisions in Millard v. Harris,6 and Cross v. Harris.7 The purpose of
this article is to determine, in light of the above, what, if anything, is left
of the 1948 Act and whether there is any need for such a statute. In
making this determination, constitutional aspects of the statute as they
pertain to preventive detention, due process, equal protection and cruel
and unusual punishment will be analyzed.
THE 1948 ACT
The 1948 Act establishes the following procedural guidelines for its
implementation. Commitment proceedings can be initiated by a United
States Attorney, or the court, against any person suspected of being a
sexual psychopath, whether he has been charged with a crime or not.8
In the case of a defendant in a criminal proceeding, the United States
Attorney can file for a sexual psychopath hearing if he sets forth facts
stating why he feels the person falls under the Act.9  The defendant has
the right to the assistance of counsel at every stage.10 Two psychiatrists
are appointed by the court to examine the defendant and file written re-
ports stating whether they conclude that the person is a sexual psycho-
1 D.C. CODE ANN. §§ 22-3503 to 3511 (1967) [hereinafter referred to as the
1948 Act].
1377, 80th Cong., 2d Sess. 5 (1948).
3 D.C. CODE ANN. § 22-3503(1) (1967).
4 D.C. CODE ANN. §§ 21-501 to 591 (1967).
5 Durham v. United States, 214 F.2d 862 (D.C. Cir. 1954).
6 Millard v. Harris, 406 F.2d 964 (D.C. Cir. 1968).
7 Cross v. Harris, 418 F.2d 1095 (D.C. Cir. 1969).
8 D.C. CODE ANN. § 22-3504 (1967).
9 Id.
10 D.C. CODE ANN. § 22-3505.

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