Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 1581
By: Coleman
Criminal Jurisprudence


There are sometimes cases in the criminal system in which defendants
standing trial are not mentally fit to do so, and consequently face jail
terms rather than receiving the treatment that the state of their mental
health requires.  Under current law, court appointed evaluators are not
required to follow standards or have any specialized training in conducting
trial competency evaluations.  Subsequently, many incompetent defendants
stand trial.   Standardized procedures and protocol may help to better
identify defendants who are incompetent.  House Bill 1581 establishes a
standard protocol recorded by evaluators to provide the necessary
procedural information and medical opinions to the courts and transfer


It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does
not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state
officer, department, agency, or institution. 


House Bill 1581 amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to require a court to
appoint an expert experienced and qualified by education and training in
mental health and retardation and experienced in forensic evaluation to
gather background information to determine a defendant's level of
competency to stand trial.  The bill prohibits the court from ordering a
defendant to submit to an examination until a defendant has retained an
attorney to represent the defendant if the examiner concludes that the
defendant is incompetent to stand trial, the bill requires the examiner to
submit a separate report setting forth the examiner's findings and opinions
concerning whether the defendant is a person who meets the criteria for
court-ordered inpatient mental health services or whether the defendant is
a person with mental retardation and meets the criteria for commitment to a
residential care facility (Arts. 46.02 and 46.03). 

The bill requires a sheriff no later than 72 hours after receiving evidence
or a statement that may establish reasonable cause that a defendant is
incompetent to stand trial to notify a magistrate of the fact.  The bill
sets forth provisions for the evaluation of such defendants and specifies
matters to be included in the evaluation of the defendant (Art. 16.22).   


September 1, 2001.