Legislature(2019 - 2020)

2020-02-28 House Journal

Full Journal pdf

2020-02-28                     House Journal                      Page 1725
HB 304                                                                                                                        
HOUSE BILL NO. 304 by the House Rules Committee by request of                                                                   
the Governor, entitled:                                                                                                         
     "An Act relating to psychiatric examination under criminal law                                                             
     and procedure; relating to notice of reasonable cause to believe the                                                       
     defendant has become competent; relating to defendants who are                                                             
     civilly committed; and providing for an effective date."                                                                   
was read the first time and referred to the Health & Social Services                                                            
and Judiciary Committees.                                                                                                       
The following fiscal note(s) apply:                                                                                             
1.  Zero, Dept. of Corrections                                                                                                  
2.  Zero, Dept. of Health & Social Services                                                                                     
3.  Zero, Dept. of Law                                                                                                          
4.  Zero, Dept. of Public Safety                                                                                                
The Governor's transmittal letter dated February 27 follows:                                                                    
"Dear Speaker Edgmon:                                                                                                           
Under the authority of Article III, Section 18, of the Alaska                                                                   
Constitution, I am transmitting a bill relating to psychiatric                                                                  
examination under criminal law and procedure, providing notice to the                                                           
prosecuting authority and court of the defendant's return to                                                                    
competency, and clarifying statutory procedures when a defendant is                                                             

2020-02-28                     House Journal                      Page 1726
subject to civil commitment proceedings as well as criminal                                                                     
competency proceedings.                                                                                                         
Under current law, if a defendant intends to rely on an insanity defense                                                        
or if there is reason to doubt the defendant's fitness to proceed, or if                                                        
there is reason to believe that a mental disease or defect will become                                                          
an issue in the case, the court must appoint two qualified psychiatrists                                                        
or two forensic psychologists certified by the American Board of                                                                
Forensic Psychology to examine and report on the mental condition of                                                            
the defendant. Due to the difficulty, if not impossibility, of finding a                                                        
board-certified forensic psychologist in Alaska, the Alaska Psychiatric                                                         
Institute frequently must file notice with the court that it does not have                                                      
board-certified psychologists on staff or contract. If the parties do not                                                       
agree to waive the requirements of the statute, the Alaska Court                                                                
System hires its own board-certified psychologists from out-of-state at                                                         
an enormous cost. The amendments in the bill allow the court to                                                                 
appoint qualified psychiatrists or psychologists that are competent in                                                          
the field. These amendments bring our statutes in line with current                                                             
practice and industry standards while eliminating the administrative                                                            
burden of having to seek an exemption from statute in every case.                                                               
In addition, when a defendant cannot be restored within the time frame                                                          
allowed by statute, the criminal case must be dismissed. However,                                                               
there may be times when the defendant becomes competent, after the                                                              
dismissal of the case. There is currently no statutory procedure for                                                            
notifying the prosecuting authority or court about this return to                                                               
competency. The bill will require any mental health practitioner, who                                                           
has reasonable cause to believe that the defendant has become                                                                   
competent, to notify the prosecuting authority and the court. The                                                               
prosecuting authority may then reinstitute the original criminal charges                                                        
and begin the process of holding the person accountable for their                                                               
actions. This provision applies to persons committed to a designated                                                            
treatment facility. In March of 2019, the Alaska Supreme Court held                                                             
in In the Matter of the Necessity for the Hospitalization of Linda M.,                                                          
that civil commitment proceedings and competency proceedings in the                                                             
criminal context could occur concurrently and that the criminal                                                                 
competency proceedings would not bar the involuntary administration                                                             
of medication in the civil commitment context. The bill codifies those                                                          
holdings and clarifies that both a civil commitment proceeding and a                                                            
criminal competency proceeding may occur simultaneously; including                                                              

2020-02-28                     House Journal                      Page 1727
the administration of medications which may be necessary for the                                                                
well-being of the patient.                                                                                                      
This bill streamlines processes and makes Alaska's criminal culpability                                                         
and competency proceedings more efficient. Restoring criminal                                                                   
defendants allows our criminal justice system to hold them                                                                      
accountable and begin the process for rehabilitation. It also allows the                                                        
system to achieve justice for the victims in these cases and enactment                                                          
will be of great benefit to the state.                                                                                          
Mike Dunleavy