Second Circuit sets standard for involuntary medication of criminal defendants.
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has held that trial courts can require that criminal defendants be medicated medicated /med·i·cat·ed/ (med´i-kat?id) imbued with a medicinal substance.
contains a medicinal substance. against their will to make them competent to stand trial, as long as the medication is necessary and will not impair defendants' ability to exercise their constitutional rights. (United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. v. Gomes, 289 F.3d 71 (2d Cir. 2002).)
The court observed that the forcible forc·i·ble
1. Effected against resistance through the use of force: The police used forcible restraint in order to subdue the assailant.
2. Characterized by force; powerful. injection of medication into a nonconsenting defendant's body "represents a substantial interference with that person's liberty." But it found that the government's countervailing interest in prosecuting criminal cases is no less substantial and, under certain circumstances, outweighs the defendant's interests.
The government's power to bring an accused person to trial is "fundamental to a scheme of ordered liberty and prerequisite to social justice and peace," the court said.
The case involved a man arrested for illegal possession of a firearm. After finding the defendant mentally incompetent to stand trial, a federal district court ordered that he be medicated with antipsychotic drugs Antipsychotic Drugs Definition
Antipsychotic drugs are a class of medicines used to treat psychosis and other mental and emotional conditions.
Purpose . The appeals court upheld this action, and endeavored to set a new standard to guide trial courts on this issue in the future.
In such cases, the Second Circuit held, the government must show, and the trial court must explicitly find by clear and convincing evidence clear and convincing evidence n. evidence that proves a matter by the "preponderance of evidence" required in civil cases and beyond the "reasonable doubt" needed to convict in a criminal case. (See: beyond a reasonable doubt) , that
* The proposed treatment is medically appropriate.
* The treatment is necessary to restore the defendant to competence.
* The defendant can be fairly tried while the medication is in effect.
* The trial will serve an essential government interest.
Also, a trial court ordering involuntary medication must closely monitor the process to ensure that the dosage is "properly individualized in·di·vid·u·al·ize
tr.v. in·di·vid·u·al·ized, in·di·vid·u·al·iz·ing, in·di·vid·u·al·iz·es
1. To give individuality to.
2. To consider or treat individually; particularize.
3. to the defendant" and that it continues to be necessary throughout the proceedings.
The court added that the defendant must remain lucid enough to communicate with his or her attorney. In some cases, it said, the administration of drugs might improve communications by enhancing a defendant's ability to concentrate or by preventing hallucinations Hallucinations Definition
Hallucinations are false or distorted sensory experiences that appear to be real perceptions. These sensory impressions are generated by the mind rather than by any external stimuli, and may be seen, heard, felt, and even and delusions.
The defendant had argued that the side effects Side effects
Effects of a proposed project on other parts of the firm. of the drugs might prejudice the jury by making him look bored or unfeeling in court. But the court cited statements by the American Psychological Association The American Psychological Association (APA) is a professional organization representing psychology in the US. Description and history
The association has around 150,000 members and an annual budget of around $70m. that new antipsychotic medications known as "atypicals" are much less likely than older drugs to have such side effects. "[R]ecent advances in antipsychotic medication reduce our concerns that the defendant's health interests and fair-trial rights cannot be adequately protected when he is involuntarily medicated," the court said.
"Whatever the risks of side effects may be, we believe that they are best dealt with in the context of the individual case rather than by blanket judicial pronouncements."