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Name: In re Williams
Case #: B252654
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 08/08/2014

Trial court did not have authority under Penal Code section 1370.1 to place mentally incompetent defendant in county jail to receive competency services. Due to his developmental disability, Williams was declared mentally incompetent to stand trial for a number of sex offenses. The regional center provided a recommendation to the trial court to place Williams in the Porterville Developmental Center where he was to receive services designed to restore him to competency. The court ordered Williams placed there, but Porterville refused to accept him because of safety concerns. After finding no other options, the trial court ordered that Williams remain in the county jail with services to be provided by a local regional center. In a habeas petition, Williams claimed that his continued placement in the county jail was improper under section 1370.1. Held: Petition granted. Section 1370.1, subdivision (a)(1)(B) specifies the placement options for a defendant who has been found incompetent to stand trial due to a developmental disability. The county jail did not qualify under the main placement provision, subdivision (a)(1)(B)(i), because it was not a “residential facility approved by the director of a regional center.” Paragraphs (ii) through (iii) authorize alternative placements, including a “secure treatment facility,” in limited circumstances, but they did not apply in Williams’ case. The court disagreed with the Attorney General’s contention, based on Penal Code section 1369.1, that a county jail qualifies as a “treatment facility” for purposes of section 1370.1. Section 1369.1 applies to placement of defendants found mentally incompetent due to a mental disorder, not to placement of defendants found incompetent due to a developmental disability. Williams must be placed in a facility that meets the requirements of section 1370.1, subdivision (a)(1)(B), or be released or be subject to the alternative commitment procedures in section 1370.1.

Williams’ two-year confinement while he awaited placement for competency services violated due process. Williams also argued that his continued placement in the county jail violated his right to due process. The appellate court agreed. Williams was committed to the county jail in August 2011 for the regional center to evaluate him and make a placement recommendation. Due to delays by the regional center and the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), two years passed before the trial court ordered Williams placed in the county jail for treatment. “Due process does not permit someone declared mentally incompetent to be confined for such a long period of time without receiving any treatment, much less without a determination that there is a substantial likelihood the person will attain competency in the foreseeable future.”

Once DDS informed the court in writing that Williams could not be safely served at Porterville, the trial court did not have authority to order Williams placed in Porterville. Williams argued that the trial court should have ordered him placed in Porterville, even though the institution refused to accept him based on safety concerns. The trial court was correct that it had no authority to do so based on Welfare and Institutions Code section 6510.5, which provides that under no circumstances shall a court order placement of someone declared incompetent under section 1370.1 to a developmental center if DDS notifies the court in writing that the person cannot be safely served at the facility. However, the trial court may confirm that any rejection letter represents the official position of the DDS. The trial court may also issue an order to show cause and ultimately compel the DDS to fulfill its statutory obligations for the care, custody, and treatment of developmentally disabled persons by offering a placement option. While section 6510.5 may authorize DDS to veto a specific developmental center placement, it does not give DDS authority to refuse to approve any placement.