Powell v. Maryland Department of HealthAnnotate this Case
A criminal defendant who is not competent to stand trial may not be continued in pretrial detention unless the government takes steps to provide treatment to restore the defendant to competency or to have the defendant civilly committed. Maryland law allows a court to determine whether a defendant is competent; if a defendant is incompetent with the potential to be restored to competency, the court may commit the defendant for appropriate treatment, Maryland Code, Criminal Procedure Article 3-104. The state Department of Health (MDH) adopted a policy on admission to state psychiatric hospitals to manage the demand for the limited beds available. That policy has resulted in a waiting list for admission, which has included criminal defendants who have been found incompetent and committed for treatment. The Circuit Court for Baltimore City adopted a practice of requiring admission of a defendant to a hospital within one day of the issuance of the commitment order. When MDH failed to comply, defendants challenged the MDH policy. The Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal, noting that the statute does not set a deadline for admission, nor does it authorize a court to do so; a delay in admission does not violate the statute, although it may violate the commitment order. Depending on the circumstances, a delay may violate the state due process guarantee.