Allen v. Illinois

In Allen v. Illinois, 478 U.S. 364 (1986), the United States Supreme Court determined whether a defendant was entitled to his Fifth Amendment right against compulsory self-incrimination in the context of a civil commitment proceeding under the Illinois Sexually Dangerous Persons Act. The court noted that the Illinois Legislature's express intent that the proceedings be civil in nature, while not always dispositive, established that such proceedings would not invoke the procedural safeguards available in criminal trials. Allen, supra, 478 U.S. at pages 368-369. To avoid this result, the defendant must provide " 'the clearest proof' that 'the statutory scheme is so punitive either in purpose or effect as to negate the State's intention' . . . ." Allen, supra, 478 U.S. at page 369. In Allen, the court rejected the defendant's challenge and concluded that the law, the purpose of which was to provide care and treatment to sexually dangerous persons, was essentially civil in nature. Allen, supra, 478 U.S. at page 369. Specifically, the court was unpersuaded by the defendant's reliance on the fact that the Illinois law provided for other procedural safeguards found in criminal trials, including the right to a jury trial and the right to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Allen, supra, 478 U.S. at pages 371-372. The court reasoned: "The State has indicated quite clearly its intent that these commitment proceedings be civil in nature; its decision nevertheless to provide some of the safeguards applicable in criminal trials cannot itself turn these proceedings into criminal prosecutions requiring the full panoply of rights applicable there." Allen, supra, 478 U.S. at page 372. In reaching this conclusion, the court explained that, contrary to its sweeping statement applying the right against self-incrimination to any case involving the deprivation of liberty in an earlier case, which, notably, was cited by the California Supreme Court in addressing similar issues, such procedural protections only apply in cases that are penal in nature. Allen, supra, 478 U.S. at pages 372-373. The Court held that none of Allen's statements to the psychiatrists who would evaluate him under the Illinois SVPA could be used in any later criminal proceeding against him. 478 U.S. at 367-68. The United States Supreme Court accepted that holding and then rejected Allen's claim that the SVPA proceedings were themselves criminal in nature and thus that the Fifth Amendment allowed him to refuse to participate in psychiatric interviews. Id. at 368, 375. The Supreme Court affirmed the state court's conclusion that the SVPA proceedings were civil and that the Fifth Amendment privilege was not applicable to the required psychiatric interviews. Id. at 375. Allen did not address whether a state must offer immunity before it deposes a person who may be designated a sexually violent person. The Court evaluated the ejection of a criminal defendant from the courtroom for repeated disruptive behavior. 397 U.S. at 340-41. The Court explicitly held that: A defendant can lose his right to be present at trial if, after he has been warned by the judge that he will be removed if he continues his disruptive behavior, he nevertheless insists on conducting himself in a manner so disorderly, disruptive, and disrespectful of the court that his trial cannot be carried on with him in the courtroom. Once lost, the right to be present can, of course, be reclaimed as soon as the defendant is willing to conduct himself consistently with the decorum and respect inherent in the concept of courts and judicial proceedings. Id. at 343. Furthermore, the Court explained that "trial judges confronted with disruptive, contumacious, stubbornly defiant defendants must be given sufficient discretion to meet the circumstances of each case. No one formula for maintaining the appropriate courtroom atmosphere will be best in all situations." Id. The Court held that there are "at least three constitutionally permissible ways" to handle a disruptive defendant: the defendant could be bound and gagged in the courtroom, the court could cite the defendant for contempt, or it could remove the defendant until assurances are made that he will conduct himself properly. Id. at 343-44. The Court held that under the circumstances, the trial court's decision to remove Allen from the courtroom and continue the trial in his absence until he promised to behave was constitutionally permissible. Id. at 345-46. Allen's behavior was of "an extreme and aggravated nature," and he was warned that removal could occur. Id. at 346. Finally, once removed, Allen was "constantly informed that he could return to the trial when he would agree to conduct himself in an orderly manner." Id. The trial court acted well within its discretion, given the importance of protecting this country's "citadels of justice" from such "scurrilous, abusive language and conduct." Id. at 347.