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Changes to Law Regarding Competency to Stand Trial Will Impact San Antonio and the Rest of Texas Courts Dealing With Defendants With Mental Health Issues

The regular 82nd legislative session ended on May 30, 2011, and the following House Bill will take effect on September 1, 2011. This new law will impact San Antonio’s Mental Health docket and criminal defense attorneys and other court staff alike will need to apply the new rules to Defendant’s suffering from mental health problems. The following summary of the law concerns the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Health and Safety Code. This new law, and all Texas laws, can be located at the Texas Constitution and Statutes website. As with all new laws, the changes made apply only to offenses committed on or after the effective date.

HB 748, Relating to a criminal defendant’s incompetency to stand trial, to certain related time credits, and to the maximum period allowed for restoration of the defendant to competency. Code of Criminal Procedures Articles 42 and 46B are amended. Health and Safety Code Section 574 is also amended.

Standards for determining whether a person is competent to stand trial in either a felony or misdemeanor case are outlined in Article 46B of the Code of Criminal Procedure. HB 748 addresses and clarifies standards and procedures that the court system must follow in regards to individuals who are awaiting a determination of competent or incompetent to stand trial.

The bill addresses the disparity in the current law that limits a judge’s ability to give time credit to a person who is waiting for a competency hearing or waiting in jail for a bed to open up at a mental health treatment facility. HB 748 gives a defendant credit for time served in a jail, mental health facility, and residential care facility if that defendant is found incompetent to stand trial. The bill would also compel a judge to give a convicted person credit on their sentence for the time they have already spent in confinement. The time credit would include when a person was confined in a jail waiting to transfer to a mental health facility, release on bail to enter into an outpatient treatment program, or a trial following any temporary restoration of the defendant’s competency to stand trial.

At the end of the “maximum restoration period” a mental health facility or outpatient treatment provider would evaluate the person to determine if treatment under the mental health and mental retardation chapters of the Health and Safety Code would be necessary. In addition, instead of reviews every six months for a person who has been ordered to take psychoactive medication until a trial, the bill states that the order would be in effect until whichever comes first: the 180th day after the date the person was returned to the correctional facility; the date the defendant was acquitted, was convicted, or entered a plea of guilty; or the date charges were dismissed.

A person cannot be committed to a treatment facility or participation in an outpatient treatment program for a period of time that exceeds the maximum term possible for the offense. The court will have to dismiss charges if a person, who has been committed to a treatment program, is not tried before the expiration of the maximum period of restoration.

At the Law Office of Dayna L. Jones we believe that every client deserves representation that will assist them during every step of the legal process. Dayna is sensitive to the needs of clients who may face mental health problems. Contact us at (210) 255-8525 to schedule an appointment with a criminal defense attorney. Calls are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.