PA 07-153—HB 6390

Judiciary Committee

Public Health Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING TREATMENT OPTIONS FOR DEFENDANTS FOUND NOT COMPETENT TO STAND TRIAL

SUMMARY: This act authorizes criminal courts to order the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) to treat some mentally ill criminal defendants in community settings when this is more clinically appropriate than seeking a civil commitment order. Prior law gave DMHAS this authority only after the Probate Court had (1) civilly committed a criminal defendant to the department's custody and (2) determined that inpatient treatment was unnecessary.

The act applies to defendants who are (1) charged with specified nonviolent crimes whose mental illnesses render them unable to stand trial and (2) unlikely to become competent within the period in which they can lawfully be detained (18 months or the maximum prison sentence they could serve, whichever is shorter). This population is already eligible to be considered for civil commitment rather than subjected to further criminal proceedings.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2007

CIVIL COMMITMENT RECOMMENDATIONS

By law, courts must appoint medical panels to conduct psychiatric examinations and make findings and recommendations when there is a question about a criminal defendant's mental competency (i. e. , ability to understand the court proceedings and aid in presenting his or her defense). Courts take these reports into consideration in deciding what further legal proceedings are appropriate. Among other things, the reports must contain findings about whether a defendant appears to meet the clinical standards for civil commitment. The act requires the examiners also to give their opinions and recommend whether civil commitment would be appropriate for defendants who will not regain competency within the period in which they can lawfully be detained. This opinion must be updated in all subsequent progress reports the panel or the hospital administrator files with the court. The act requires courts to consider these opinions when determining the appropriateness of civil commitment.

COURT OPTIONS

When a panel's report indicates that an incompetent defendant is not likely to be restored to competency but appears to be eligible for civil commitment, the criminal court previously could order that the defendant be:

1. treated in a DMHAS facility to restore his or her competency, if this was likely to be successful within the permissible statutory period;

2. released; or

3. placed in the custody of DMHAS or the departments of Children and Families or Mental Retardation and directing the agencies to file a Probate Court civil commitment application.

The act gives the court the additional option of ordering the defendant into DMHAS custody for treatment in a less restrictive setting. It permits this only when the examiners' written report or court testimony indicates that services are available and appropriate.

BACKGROUND

Civil Commitment Instead of Criminal Prosecution

PA 03-3, June Special Session, created a civil commitment option for incompetent people charged with certain non-violent crimes. It allows them to be treated for their underlying illness rather than for the purpose of restoring their competency to stand trial. Defendants who successfully complete treatment have the criminal charges dropped or nolled (not prosecuted).

Defendants cannot participate if they have been charged with:

1. class A or B felonies, except first-degree larceny;

2. drunk driving or a crime or motor vehicle violation in which another person was killed;

3. sexual contact with a child under age 16;

4. manslaughter;

5. third-degree sexual assault; or

6. second-degree assault with a motor vehicle.

Those charged with class C felonies, other than the sex and drunk driving crimes listed above, can participate if they can show good cause for doing so.

OLR Tracking: SP: JLK: PF: dw