CaliforniaCalifornia


 

 


Competency/ Insanity

Competency

Defines incompetency as: “… as a result of mental disorder or developmental disability, the defendant is unable to understand the nature of the criminal proceedings or to assist counsel in the conduct of a defense in a rational manner.” (one of only a few states that specifically includes developmental disability in the definition). Cal. Penal Code § 1367

Defendants must be examined by county health professionals before being hospitalized – specifically addresses procedure if defendant is developmentally disabled – applies to defendants with developmental disabilities and outlines procedure to be deemed competent or incompetent.  Cal. Penal Code § 1370.01

Insanity

In any criminal proceeding, including any juvenile court proceeding, in which a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity is entered, this defense shall be found by the trier of fact only when the accused person proves by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she was incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of his or her act and of distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the commission of the offenseCal. Penal Code § 25

Special Rules

Victims with disabilities: Special precautions will be taken in cases of child molestation, domestic abuse, etc. if the victim is disabled or a minor to comfort and support the witness and to protect him or her from coercion, intimidation, or undue influence as a witness. These precautions may include: taking periodic breaks from the person’s testimony, removal of judicial robes, and relocation to a more comfortable area for testimony. Cal. Penal Code § 868.8

Special jury instruction (if requested by either party) if disabled individual is a witness (sample of the instruction: “Although, because of his or her level of cognitive development, a person with a developmental disability, or cognitive, mental, or communication impairment may perform differently as a witness, that does not mean that a person with a developmental disability, or cognitive, mental, or communication impairment is any more or less credible a witness than another witness. You should not discount or distrust the testimony of a person with a developmental disability, or cognitive, mental, or communication impairment solely because he or she is a person with a developmental disability, or cognitive, mental, or communication impairment.”). Cal. Penal Code § 1127g

Court has discretion to modify court procedures, as a reasonable accommodation, to ensure that adults and children with disabilities who have been victims of an alleged sexual or otherwise specified offense are able to participate effectively in criminal proceedings – including removal of judicial robes, video testimony, frequent breaks, etc. Cal. Penal Code § 1347.5

Pre-Trial Diversion: There is a pre-trial diversion program for defendants charged with misdemeanors who have a "cognitive developmental disability." The court shall consult with the prosecutor, the defense counsel, the probation department, and the appropriate regional center in order to determine whether a defendant may be diverted. When the court suspects that a defendant may have a cognitive developmental disability, and the defendant consents to the diversion process and to his or her case being evaluated for eligibility for regional center services, and waives his or her right to a speedy trial, the court shall order the prosecutor, the probation department, and the regional center to prepare reports on specified aspects of the defendant’s case. If the defendant is found to have a cognitive developmental disability and to be eligible for regional center services, and the court determines from the various reports submitted to it that the proposed diversion program is acceptable to the court, the prosecutor, the probation department, and the regional center, and if the defendant consents to diversion and waives his or her right to a speedy trial, the court may order, without a hearing, that the diversion program be implemented for a period of time. Cal. Penal Code §§ 1001.20-1001.34

Sentencing

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Death Penalty

In any case in which the prosecution seeks the death penalty, the defendant may, at a reasonable time prior to the start of trial, apply for an order directing that a hearing to determine intellectual disability be conducted. He or she must submit a declaration by a qualified expert stating his or her opinion that the defendant is a person with an intellectual disability. The court shall order a hearing to determine whether the defendant is a person with an intellectual disability. At the request of the defendant, the court shall conduct the hearing without a jury prior to the commencement of the trial. The defendant's request for a court hearing prior to trial shall constitute a waiver of a jury hearing on the issue of intellectual disability. If the judge finds that the defendant has an intellectual disability, the death penalty is precluded. If the defendant does not request a court hearing, the court shall order a jury hearing to determine if the defendant is a person with an intellectual disability. The jury hearing on intellectual disability shall occur at the conclusion of the phase of the trial in which the jury has found the defendant guilty with a finding that one or more of the special circumstances needed for a sentence of death. If the jury finds that the defendant has an intellectual disability, the death penalty is precluded. Cal. Penal Code § 1376

If there is reason for a prison warden to believe that a defendant on death row is insane, he must report it to the district attorney who then must immediately file a petition asking that the question of the prisoner's insanity be looked into. A jury of 12 must be impaneled to inquire into the question. The district attorney must attend and may produce witnesses. The verdict of the jury must be recorded and, based off the verdict, the court must file an order reciting the facts and whether the defendant is found insane or not. If found insane, the defendant must be taken to a medical facility of the Department of Corrections until his reason is restored. Cal. Penal Code §§ 3701-3704.5

Post-Conviction 

If it is determined that a prisoner is mentally ill or mentally deficient and that their rehabilitation may be expedited by treatment at a state hospital, they can be sent to such a hospital for treatment. When it is determined by the hospital that the prisoner has been treated to the extent that they will not benefit from further care and treatment at the state hospital, the prisoner will be sent back to the Department of Corrections. The time passed at the state hospital shall count as part of the prisoner's sentence. Cal. Penal Code §§ 2684-2685.