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News & Press: Legislation/Policy

House Bills Aim to Improve Mental Competency Exam Process

Friday, January 10, 2020   (0 Comments)
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A bipartisan plan to help address the backlog of criminal defendants awaiting mental competency evaluations at the state's Center for Forensic Psychiatry was introduced Thursday by House members.

HB 5325HB 5326 and HB 5327 also would aim to help local law enforcement access alternative options when the state is unable to complete a mental health competency exam in a timely manner.

 

The three bills were sponsored by Rep. Doug Wozniak (R-Shelby Township) alongside Rep. Julie Calley (R-Portland) and Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn).

If a defendant is to be held in jail pending trial, the proposed legislation would require the forensic center to complete a mental competency examination within 30 days of a court order, according to a press release issued by Mr. Wozniak's office.

If the center does not schedule and complete the examination within 30 days, the court may appoint independent qualified personnel outside of the center to complete the examination.

Currently, examinations to determine a defendant's competency to stand trial must be completed at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry, a facility run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

To achieve a swifter mental health competency exam process, HB 5325 would amend several sections of the Code of Criminal Procedure; HB 5326 would amend the Mental Health Code; and HB 5327 would amend the Probate Code of 1939.

In a statement, Mr. Wozniak said criminal cases involving defendant competency questions move at a "painfully slow pace."

"The forensic center is so backlogged that many people are forced to wait months before they are examined," Mr. Wozniak said. "In the meantime, trials are delayed and defendants languish in county jails that often don't have the proper resources to treat the mentally ill."

DHHS Spokesperson Lynn Sutfin told Gongwer News Service that the department is currently reviewing the proposed legislation but hasn't taken stance on it at this time.


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