Volitional impairment and the sexually violent predator

J Forensic Sci. 2003 Jul;48(4):861-8.


This article discusses psychiatry's limited conceptualization of volitional capacity and its application to sexually violent predator laws by exploring two legal opinions critical to predator case law (Kansas v. Hendricks and Kansas v. Crane). The author reviewed pertinent psychiatric literature on impaired volition to identify potential contributions and limitations that psychiatry may offer the legal field. Assessment of the ego dystonic nature of impaired self-regulation, utilization of recent advances in self-assessment and laboratory evaluation of impulsive behavior, and dimensional categorization of a volitional capacity construct are recommended as an approach to the assessment and understanding of an inability to control concept. This paper concludes that elements of volition may be psychiatrically evaluated in a way that contributes to the Court's understanding of that capacity. However, further study is needed to operationally define volitional capacity and address issues of assessment validity and reliability.

Publication types

  • Legal Case
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Criminal Law / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Forensic Psychiatry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Competency / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Sex Offenses / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Terminology as Topic
  • United States