Volume 38, Issue 6 (November 1993)
The Disposition of Criminal Charges After Involuntary Medication to Restore Competency to Stand Trial
The United States Supreme Court, in the recent case of Riggins v. Nevada, extended its examination of the issue of involuntary treatment with anti-psychotic medication to the mentally disabled facing criminal trial. Although this was an extreme case where the defendant faced a possible death sentence, the involuntary administration of anti-psychotic medication to restore ‘competency to stand trial’ always raises unique medical and moral questions. This highly controversial issue has received little empirical investigation.
We report here on the first study to follow-up on the disposition of the criminal charges of persons committed to a hospital for the restoration of ‘competency to stand trial’ who refused anti-psychotic medication and for whom involuntary treatment was sought. We have previously reported on the characteristics of these cases (N=68) and aspects of their outcome in the hospital. This cohort of patients represents virtually all indicted felony offenders in New York state who were incompetent to stand trial and for whom involuntary treatment with anti-psychotic medication was requested between 1986 and 1990. The present retrospective report focuses on the disposition of the criminal charges for such cases, in a state that does not have a death penalty.
Tentative inferences are considered based on the findings that persons who were involuntarily restored to ‘competency to stand trial’ had a variety of dispositions of their criminal charges, including plea negotiations that resulted in foreshortened incarceration and several cases of insanity acquittals. Suggestions for further and more conclusive studies are proposed.