Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Can't try them, can't keep them, can't stop them

Dangerous and mentally ill, a 'blind-spot' in Texas law

Texas law says that a defendant being held for competency restoration can be hospitalized no longer than he would be if convicted and sentenced to the maximum penalty.  Therefore a defendant charged with a second-degree felony and deemed incompetent to stand trial can only be held in a psychiatric hospital for 20 years, the maximum penalty for a second degree felony.

A patient reaching the maximum period of hospitalization could be committed by a civil judge if he is to be held in a state hospital against his wishes.

Civil commitments are performed when people with mental illness are determined to be a serious danger to themselves or others or when their condition has so deteriorated that they can't care for themselves.

A judge decides the continued commitment based on a psychiatric evaluations and recent behavior.  A well behaved, appropriately medicated patient will seldom be civilly committed.

According to the Austin American-Statesman, the recent court-ordered release of potentially violent, mentally ill Brad Reinke, after he spent 20 years in a state mental hospital, has officials scrambling to figure out how to protect his family and the community in a situation prosecutors say points to a blind spot in Texas's mental health laws.

The Court of Criminal Appeals, Texas' highest criminal court, in June ordered a 1990 attempted murder case against Brad Reinke dismissed.  Reinke was accused of attacking his father with a knife at the family's Northwest Austin home while his mother fought her son off with a baseball bat.

Reinke has spent the maximum time allowable based on the charges against him. Few dispute that Reinke belongs confined.  However, the likelihood that he will remain confined is not good.

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