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Name: Medina v. Superior Court
Case #: G059331
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 06/29/2021

The trial court and departments providing services must follow Penal Code section 1370.1 in providing treatment to those found incompetent to stand trial due to a developmental disability. In 2017, a trial court found Medina incompetent to stand trial due to a developmental disability (as opposed to a mental illness) and ordered him to receive services under section 1370.1. However, the regional center (RC) and the Department of Developmental Services (DDS), which have the responsibility for providing services for people with developmental disabilities, found Medina did not have a developmental disability and was therefore not eligible for its services. Medina remained in county jail, filing several writs. In 2020, the trial court vacated the 2017 order finding Medina incompetent, and set a new competency hearing. Medina filed a petition for a writ of mandate/prohibition. Held: Petition granted in part. Under section 1370.1, once Medina was adjudicated incompetent due to a developmental disability, he was required to be housed for treatment until either he regained competence or his term of commitment ended. Unlike section 1370, which applies to defendants found incompetent as a result of a mental health issue, section 1370.1 does not provide for a further competency hearing if there is evidence of a change in the defendant’s condition. Thus, the trial court did not have the statutory authority to issue the 2020 order. Under the version of section 1370.1 in effect in 2017, the RC did not have the authority to make a recommendation as to whether a defendant had a developmental disability, and the RC’s concurrence was not required. The trial court’s adjudication was binding on the RC; it had a legal obligation to recommend a suitable placement and could not avoid that obligation by claiming Medina did not have a developmental disability. The proper procedure in this case would have been for the RC or the DDS to file a certificate of restoration if either believed Medina had never been incompetent to stand trial. [Editor’s Note: The court also discussed statutory changes since Medina was found mentally incompetent. Effective January 1, 2019, section 1370.1, subdivision (a)(1)(B), was amended to require a determination by the regional center that the defendant has a developmental disability in order to suspend criminal proceedings.]

Because Medina was denied the services he was entitled to, due process requires the court to count his days in jail or prison in order to calculate his maximum term of commitment. The maximum term of commitment was determined in this case to be three years under former section 1370.1. Once a defendant has served the maximum term of commitment, due process requires that he be released. Generally, the three-year statutory limit has been held to apply only to the total period of time actually spent in commitment at a mental institution or treatment facility, with no credit given for time served in jail or prison. The reason for counting only the days actually spent in an institution is that due process requires that commitment be limited to the period reasonably necessary to permit treatment for incompetence. (People v. G.H. (2014) 230 Cal.App.4th 1548, 1559.) Time spent in jail or prison “bears no relation to the period reasonably necessary to permit actual treatment.” (Ibid.) However, in this case, Medina had not received the treatment to which he was legally entitled, due to the actions of the RC, the DDS, and the DSH. The RC and the DSH did not have the statutory right or any other legal authority to defy the adjudication of incompetence and finding of developmental disability, which were valid and binding. Medina languished in jail for years without treatment and without the ability to accrue credit toward his term of commitment. Under these circumstances, applying only days actually spent in treatment toward the maximum confinement period of three years would violate due process. The trial court was therefore directed to conduct another hearing to determine whether the maximum time period had elapsed, and if not, then to consider whether to dismiss the charges pursuant to section 1385 and/or the due process clause.