In Re MH 2008-000028 – 4/21/2009

April 28, 2009

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds that an Order Entered Pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-4517 Requiring Criminal Defendant to Undergo Mental Health Treatment Obviates the Need for Strict Compliance with Civil Commitment Procedures in A.R.S. § 36-523.

Appellant was arrested for aggravated assault, but the court found him not competent to stand trial and non-restorable.  Pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-4517(1), the court ordered Appellant to be taken into custody and transported to the Desert Vista Behavioral Health Center for civil commitment.  The State filed an “Application for Involuntary Evaluation” to initiate the civil commitment process that included copies of the police report and written reports of six doctors who had examined Appellant.  However, the State did not file a “Petition for Court-Ordered Evaluation,” which is normally required by A.R.S. §§ 36-520, 521 and 523 to initiate the civil commitment process.  The court accepted the State’s “Application for Involuntary Treatment” and ordered Appellant to undergo involuntary treatment.  Appellant then appealed, arguing the “Application for Involuntary Treatment” did not give the court authority to order his involuntary treatment.

The Court of Appeals affirmed.  The Court explained that in the normal civil commitment context A.R.S. §§ 520, 521, and 523 require a “Petition for Court-Ordered Evaluation” to begin the civil commitment process.  However, when a criminal defendant has been found incompetent to stand trial and non-restorable, A.R.S. § 13-4517(1) gives the court authority to remand the defendant to the department of health services for civil commitment proceedings without submitting the required “Petition for Court-Ordered Evaluation.”  The Court found that the State’s “Application for Involuntary Evaluation” was the functional equivalent of the required “Petition for Court-Ordered Evaluation.”  The Court also noted that the purpose of the “Petition for Court-Ordered Evaluation” is to determine whether justification exists to order involuntary treatment, and in this case, that determination had already been made by the criminal court.  The Court also affirmed trial court rulings on a waiver, mootness, and subject matter jurisdiction.

Judge Swann authored the opinion, with Presiding Judge Orozco and Judge Irvine concurring.