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In re D.C.

Supreme Court of Vermont

January 9, 2015

In re D.C

Editorial Note:

This decision has been designated as "Supreme Court of Vermont Appeals Disposed of Without Published Opinion or Memorandum Decision." table in the Atlantic Reporter

Appeal from: Superior Court, Windham Crim. Division. DOCKET NO. 1385-12-13 Wmcr. Trial Judge: John P. Wesley, Brian J. Grearson.

Dooley, Beth Robinson, andEaton, Jr., J.J.

ENTRY ORDER

In the above-entitled cause, the Clerk will enter:

D.C., who turned sixty in July 2013, appeals an order of hospitalization in the context of a criminal matter in which he was found incompetent to stand trial. We affirm.

On December 4, 2013, based on an incident in which he spit on a police officer, D.C. was charged with violating 13 V.S.A. § 1028(b)(1) (prohibiting persons from " intentionally caus[ing] blood, vomitus, excrement, mucus, saliva, or urine to come in contact with a [law enforcement officer] while the officer is performing a lawful duty" ). On January 22, 2014, D.C. was arrested for failing to appear at the arraignment scheduled for the day before. He was jailed after failing to post $500 bail. At his rescheduled arraignment the next day, the superior court, criminal division, ordered that an inpatient evaluation of D.C. be conducted at the Vermont State Hospital. There were no beds available at the hospital, however. Instead, the examination was conducted on February 2 at the correctional facility where D.C. continued to be housed. At the February 21 competency hearing, the court admitted the evaluation, and the parties stipulated to the finding that D.C. was incompetent to stand trial. The court scheduled a commitment hearing for March 7. See 13 V.S.A. § 4820 (providing that when person has, among other things, been found incompetent to stand trial, court shall hold hearing to determine whether person should be committed to custody of commissioner of Department of Mental Health). Meanwhile, D.C. was admitted to Green Mountain Psychiatric Care Center (Green Mountain) on March 3.

At the March 7 commitment hearing, Richard Munson, M.D., a psychiatrist at Green Mountain, was the only testifying witness. At the conclusion of his testimony and the attorneys' arguments, the court found that D.C. had a thought disorder that qualified as a major mental illness. The court also found that, without some form of intervention and compulsory mental-health treatment, D.C. would not be able to take care of himself, and his condition would likely deteriorate. The court concluded, however, that the State had not demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence that hospitalization was the least restrictive alternative for providing D.C. the necessary treatment. Accordingly, the court suspended the proceedings and ordered the State to present evidence on available treatment alternatives.

At the resumed hospitalization hearing on April 11, the State presented the testimony of Rebecca Moore, M.S.W., the director of social work services at Green Mountain. Following her testimony regarding the lack of available alternatives for treating D.C., the court approved a ninety-day order of hospitalization, concluding that the evidence showed that D.C. would be in danger of significant and immediate relapse if he were released without a gradual process of reintegration into the community.[1] In its follow-up hospitalization order, the court determined, based on the evidence and its oral findings and conclusions from the March 7 hearing, that D.C. was a person in need of treatment at all relevant times and continued to be a patient in need of further treatment because " he is mentally ill and as a result poses a danger of harm to himself." The court also determined, based on the evidence and its oral findings and conclusions from the April 11 hearing, that " no less restrictive treatment alternative [other than hospitalization] currently is available for" D.C.

D.C. appeals the court's hospitalization order, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that he met the criteria to be involuntarily hospitalized under 13 V.S.A. § 4822 and 18 V.S.A. § 7623, and in issuing the hospitalization order without sufficient evidence demonstrating that there was no less restrictive treatment available.

We first examine the relevant statutory law. As noted, if a defendant is found to be incompetent to stand trial due to a mental illness as defined in 13 V.S.A. § 4817, the criminal division must hold a hearing for the purpose of determining whether the defendant should be committed to the custody of the commissioner of the Department of Mental Health. 13 V.S.A. § 4820(a)(2). Before involuntarily committing the defendant, the court must find that the defendant " is a person in need of treatment or a patient in need of further treatment as defined in 18 V.S.A. § 7101." 13 V.S.A. § 4822(a). A person in need of treatment is defined as

a person who has a mental illness and, as a result of that mental illness, his or her capacity to exercise self-control, judgment, or discretion in the conduct of his or her affairs and social relations is so lessened that he or she poses a danger of harm to himself, to herself, or to others.

18 V.S.A. § 7101(17). A patient in need of further treatment is defined as " a person in need of treatment or " a patient who is receiving adequate treatment, and who, if such treatment is discontinued, presents a substantial probability that in the near future his or her condition will deteriorate and he or she will become a person in need of treatment." Id. § 7101(16).

Mental illness is defined as " a substantial disorder of thought, mood, perception, orientation, or memory, any of which grossly impairs judgment, behavior, capacity to recognize reality, or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life." Id. § 7101(14). The definition of mental illness explicitly excludes " intellectual disability." Id. A person may be shown to pose a danger to others if the person has inflicted or attempted to inflict bodily harm on another in the past, has placed others in reasonable fear of physical harm through threats or actions, or presents a danger to others in his or her care. Id. ยง 7101(17)(A). A person may be shown to pose a danger to himself or herself if the person " has threatened or attempted suicide or serious bodily harm" or has behaved in a manner indicating " that he or she is unable, without supervision and the assistance of others, to satisfy his or her need for nourishment, personal or medical care, shelter, or self-protection and safety, ...


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