Colorado has become the first state in the country to require the state to abide by strict timelines for mental health evaluations of those accused of a crime. The Denver Post reported that a court compromise that was announced in April means that “mentally ill people that have been accused of crimes…could spend less time waiting for state doctors to determine whether they’re ready for trial – and to provide treatment if they are not.”
This first-of-its-kind settlement stems from a lawsuit filed in 2011 against the state Human Services Department alleging that some defendants have waited longer than their likely sentences to be evaluated for competency.
“On behalf of the Legal Center for People With Disabilities and Older People,” the Denver Post said, “Dever attorney Iris Eytan argued in U.S. District Court that defendants’ rights to due process were being violated in the state in U.S. District Court.”
Anyone accused of a crime is guaranteed to right to understand the charges against them and to participate in their own defense. People with mental illness often require treatment before they can meet that level of competency. Under the state’s agreement, doctors will examine defendants within newly ordered time limits. Similar time limits are being enforced for the treatment to mentally ill defendants.
“The new agreement runs for up to 10 years and will roll out in phases. Douglas, Arapahoe, Boulder, and Pueblo begin working under the new deadlines July 1st. Denver’s deadlines go into effect January 1st, 2013.”