“Not Criminally Responsible” and Mental Health in Maryland

In a recent case, a man was found guilty of assault. The court decided he was not criminal responsible and committed him to the Department of Health and Mental Health under Maryland Code (1994 Repl. Vol.) § 12-111 of the Health-General Article.

The court issued an order of conditional release, but he was subsequently indicted for robbery, assault and use of a handgun while committing a felony or violent crime. The judge rescinded the order of conditional release and recommitted him to Department of Health and Mental Health (DHMH).

A jury found the defendant guilty but not criminally responsible for the robbery and use of handgun charges. The court recommitted him to the care of DHMH. Another conditional release haring was held and the circuit court granted the defendant’s request for conditional release.

The court found that he had a mental disorder and because of that, the defendant wouldn’t be a danger if he had in-patient care but would be a danger if released into the community without special conditions. Accordingly, the defendant was conditionally released into the Home Run Program, which included mental health care and psychiatric medications. One of the conditions was not to own or possess a firearm. The order was entered in 2006 and expired in 2011.

In 2009, the State asked for the conditional release to be revoked because the defendant wasn’t following requirements of the housing program, missed a medication injection and went on a visit with his mother that wasn’t authorized. The ALJ found a violation of the conditional release, but noted that the defendant’s failure to follow rules was simply a failure to join the group while doing laundry. The judge found that he had substantially met his conditions and wouldn’t present a danger to the community so long as he continued to follow certain conditions like taking his medications.

A week before the expiration of the conditional release, DHMH filed an application to request that the conditional release be extended four years until 2015. A doctor recommended against terminating the release because the defendant hadn’t developed insight into the role of medication in maintaining psychiatric stability. He had already announced he would abandon treatment so that he could think.

Nobody filed an opposition to the motion. The circuit court ordered the conditional release for another four years. After that, the defendant filed a motion to alter, arguing the court’s jurisdiction had already expired, before the court had entered its order extending the term.

The defendant appealed, asking the appellate court to answer whether it was appropriate for the circuit court to extend an order of conditional release for an extra four years when the order was issued after the date of expiration.

The appellate court explained that public safety and an individual’s likelihood of harming himself are motivations behind confining or restricting someone who has been found not criminally responsible.

The appellate court reasoned that jurisdiction over conditional release over a committed person is different than release of someone simply being punished. The defendant believed that the court’s order revived rather than extended his conditional release. The applicable statute did not contain a time limit during which the court had to rule on an application to extend a conditional release. The court affirmed the lower court’s order.

If you are arrested or charged with a crime, you should consult with an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney. We will develop the best strategy we can to defend your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More Blogs

What Constitutes “Contempt of Court” in Maryland Criminal Court, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, December 12, 2013

Is Self-Defense an Available Defense in a Charge of Affray? Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, November 18, 2013


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