Today's Law As Amended

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AB-439 Juveniles: competency.(2019-2020)

As Amends the Law Today
As Amends the Law on Aug 01, 2019


 Section 709 of the Welfare and Institutions Code is amended to read:

 (a) (1) If the court has a doubt that a minor who is subject to any juvenile proceedings is competent, the court shall suspend all proceedings and proceed pursuant to this section.
(2) A minor is incompetent for purposes of this section if the minor lacks sufficient present ability to consult with counsel and assist in preparing the minor’s defense with a reasonable degree of rational understanding, or lacks a rational as well as factual understanding of the nature of the charges or proceedings against them. Incompetency may result from the presence of any condition or conditions, including, but not limited to, mental illness, mental disorder, developmental disability, or developmental immaturity. Except as specifically provided otherwise, this section applies to a minor who is alleged to come within the jurisdiction of the court pursuant to Section 601 or 602.
(3) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), during the pendency of any juvenile proceeding, the court may receive information from any source regarding the minor’s ability to understand the proceedings. The minor’s counsel or the court may express a doubt as to the minor’s competency. If the court finds substantial evidence that raises a doubt as to the minor’s competency, the proceedings shall be suspended.
(b) (1) Unless the parties stipulate to a finding that the minor lacks competency, or the parties are willing to submit on the issue of the minor’s lack of competency, the court shall appoint an expert to evaluate the minor and determine whether the minor suffers from a mental illness, mental disorder, developmental disability, developmental immaturity, or other condition affecting competency and, if so, whether the minor is incompetent as defined in paragraph (2) of subdivision (a).
(2) The expert shall have expertise in child and adolescent development and forensic evaluation of juveniles for purposes of adjudicating competency, shall be familiar with competency standards and accepted criteria used in evaluating juvenile competency, shall have received training in conducting juvenile competency evaluations, and shall be familiar with competency remediation for the condition or conditions affecting competence in the particular case.
(3) The expert shall personally interview the minor and review all of the available records provided, including, but not limited to, medical, education, special education, probation, child welfare, mental health, regional center, and court records, and any other relevant information that is available. The expert shall consult with the minor’s counsel and any other person who has provided information to the court regarding the minor’s lack of competency. The expert shall gather a developmental history of the minor. If any information is unavailable to the expert, the expert shall note in the report the efforts to obtain that information. The expert shall administer age-appropriate testing specific to the issue of competency unless the facts of the particular case render testing unnecessary or inappropriate. The expert shall be proficient in the language preferred by the minor, or, if that is not feasible, the expert shall employ the services of a certified interpreter and use assessment tools that are linguistically and culturally appropriate for the minor. In a written report, the expert shall opine whether the minor has the sufficient present ability to consult with the minor’s counsel with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and whether the minor has a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against them. The expert shall also state the basis for these conclusions. If the expert concludes that the minor lacks competency, the expert shall give their opinion on whether the minor is likely to attain competency in the foreseeable future, and, if so, make recommendations regarding the type of remediation services that would be effective in assisting the minor in attaining competency.
(4) The Judicial Council, in conjunction with groups or individuals representing judges, defense counsel, district attorneys, chief probation officers, counties, advocates for people with developmental and mental disabilities, experts in special education testing, psychologists and psychiatrists specializing in adolescents, professional associations and accredited bodies for psychologists and psychiatrists, and other interested stakeholders, shall adopt a rule of court identifying the training and experience needed for an expert to be competent in forensic evaluations of juveniles. The Judicial Council shall develop and adopt rules for the implementation of the other requirements in this subdivision.
(5) Statements made to the appointed expert during the minor’s competency evaluation and statements made by the minor to mental health professionals during the remediation proceedings, and any fruits of these statements, shall not be used in any other hearing against the minor in either juvenile or adult court.
(6) The district attorney or minor’s counsel may retain or seek the appointment of additional qualified experts who may testify during the competency hearing. The expert’s report and qualifications shall be disclosed to the opposing party within a reasonable time before, but no later than five court days before, the hearing. If disclosure is not made in accordance with this paragraph, the court may make any order necessary to enforce the provisions of this paragraph, including, but not limited to, immediate disclosure, contempt proceedings, delaying or prohibiting the testimony of the expert or consideration of the expert’s report upon a showing of good cause, or any other lawful order. If, after disclosure of the report, the opposing party requests a continuance in order to further prepare for the hearing and shows good cause for the continuance, the court shall grant a continuance for a reasonable period of time. This paragraph does not allow a qualified expert retained or appointed by the district attorney to perform a competency evaluation on a minor without an order from the juvenile court after petitioning the court for an order pursuant to the Civil Discovery Act (Title 4 (commencing with Section 2016.010) of Part 4 of the Code of Civil Procedure).
(7) If the expert believes the minor is developmentally disabled, the court shall appoint the director of a regional center for developmentally disabled individuals described in Article 1 (commencing with Section 4620) of Chapter 5 of Division 4.5, or the director’s designee, to evaluate the minor. The director of the regional center, or the director’s designee, shall determine whether the minor is eligible for services under the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act (Division 4.5 (commencing with Section 4500)), and shall provide the court with a written report informing the court of his or her determination. The court’s appointment of the director of the regional center for determination of eligibility for services shall not delay the court’s proceedings for determination of competency.
(8) An expert’s opinion that a minor is developmentally disabled does not supersede an independent determination by the regional center whether the minor is eligible for services under the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act (Division 4.5 (commencing with Section 4500)).
(9) This section does not authorize or require determinations regarding the competency of a minor by the director of the regional center or the director’s designee.
(c) The question of the minor’s competency shall be determined at an evidentiary hearing unless there is a stipulation or submission by the parties on the findings of the expert that the minor is incompetent. It shall be presumed that the minor is mentally competent, unless it is proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the minor is mentally incompetent. With respect to a minor under 14 years of age at the time of the commission of the alleged offense, the court shall make a determination as to the minor’s capacity pursuant to Section 26 of the Penal Code prior to deciding the issue of competency.
(d) If the court finds the minor to be competent, the court shall reinstate proceedings and proceed commensurate with the court’s jurisdiction.
(e) If the court finds, by a preponderance of evidence, that the minor is incompetent, all proceedings shall remain suspended for a period of time that is no longer than reasonably necessary to determine whether there is a substantial probability that the minor will attain competency in the foreseeable future, or the court no longer retains jurisdiction and the case must be dismissed. Prior to a dismissal, the court may make orders that it deems appropriate for services. Further, the court may rule on motions that do not require the participation of the minor in the preparation of the motions. These motions include, but are not limited to, all of the following:
(1) Motions to dismiss.
(2) Motions regarding a change in the placement of the minor.
(3) Detention hearings.
(4) Demurrers.
(f) If the minor is found to be incompetent and the petition contains only misdemeanor offenses, the petition shall be dismissed.
(g) (1) Upon a finding of incompetency, the court shall refer the minor to services designed to help the minor attain competency, unless the court finds that competency cannot be achieved within the foreseeable future. The court may also refer the minor to treatment services to assist in remediation that may include, but are not limited to, mental health services, treatment for trauma, medically supervised medication, behavioral counseling, curriculum-based legal education, or training in socialization skills, consistent with any laws requiring consent. Service providers and evaluators shall adhere to the standards stated in this section and the California Rules of Court. Services shall be provided in the least restrictive environment consistent with public safety, as determined by the court. A finding of incompetency alone shall not be the basis for secure confinement. The minor shall be returned to court at the earliest possible date. The court shall review remediation services at least every 30 calendar days for minors in custody and every 45 calendar days for minors out of custody prior to the expiration of the total remediation period specified in paragraph (3) of subdivision (h). If the minor is in custody, the county mental health department shall provide the court with suitable alternatives for the continued delivery of remediation services upon release from custody as part of the court’s review of remediation services. The court shall consider appropriate alternatives to juvenile hall confinement, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
(A) Placement through regional centers.
(B) Short-term residential therapeutic programs.
(C) Crisis residential programs.
(D) Civil commitment.
(E) Foster care, relative placement, or other nonsecure placement.
(F) Other residential treatment programs.
(2) The court may make any orders necessary to assist with the delivery of remediation services in an alternative setting to secure confinement.
(h) (1) Within six months of the initial receipt of a recommendation by the designated person or entity, the court shall hold an evidentiary hearing on whether the minor is remediated or is able to be remediated unless the parties stipulate to, or agree to the recommendation of, the remediation program. If the recommendation is that the minor has attained competency, and if the minor disputes that recommendation, the burden is on the minor to prove by a preponderance of evidence that he or she remains incompetent. If the recommendation is that the minor is unable to be remediated and if the prosecutor disputes that recommendation, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove by a preponderance of evidence that the minor is remediable. If the prosecution contests the evaluation of continued incompetence, the minor shall be presumed incompetent and the prosecution shall have the burden to prove by a preponderance of evidence that the minor is competent. The provisions of subdivision (c) shall apply at this stage of the proceedings.
(2) If the court finds that the minor has been remediated, the court shall reinstate the proceedings.
(3) If the court finds that the minor has not yet been remediated, but is likely to be remediated within six months, the court shall order the minor to return to the remediation program. However, the total remediation period shall not exceed one year from the finding of incompetency and secure confinement shall not exceed the limit specified in subparagraph (A) of paragraph (5).
(4) If the court finds that the minor will not achieve competency within six months, the court shall dismiss the petition. The court may invite persons and agencies with information about the minor, including, but not limited to, the minor and the minor’s attorney, the probation department, parents, guardians, or relative caregivers, mental health treatment professionals, the public guardian, educational rights holders, education providers, and social services agencies, to the dismissal hearing to discuss any services that may be available to the minor after jurisdiction is terminated. If appropriate, the court shall refer the minor for evaluation pursuant to Article 6 (commencing with Section 5300) of Chapter 2 of Part 1 of Division 5 or Article 3 (commencing with Section 6550) of Chapter 2 of Part 2 of Division 6.
(5) (A)   Secure confinement shall not extend beyond six months from the finding of incompetence, except as provided in this section. In making that determination, the court shall consider all of the following:
(i) Where the minor will have the best chance of obtaining competence.
(ii) Whether the placement is the least restrictive setting appropriate for the minor.
(iii) Whether alternatives to secure confinement have been identified and pursued and why alternatives are not available or appropriate.
(iv) Whether the placement is necessary for the safety of the minor or others.
(B) If the court determines, upon consideration of these factors, that it is in the best interests of the minor and the public’s safety for the minor to remain in secure confinement, the court shall state the reasons on the record.
(C) Only in cases where the petition involves an offense listed in subdivision (b) of Section 707 may the court consider whether it is necessary and in the best interests of the minor and the public’s safety to order secure confinement of a minor for up to an additional year, not to exceed 18 months from the finding of incompetence.
(i) The presiding judge of the juvenile court, the probation department, the county mental health department, the public defender and any other entity that provides representation for minors, the district attorney, the regional center, if appropriate, and any other participants that the presiding judge shall designate, shall develop a written protocol describing the competency process and a program to ensure that minors who are found incompetent receive appropriate remediation services.
SEC. 2.
 This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety within the meaning of Article IV of the California Constitution and shall go into immediate effect. The facts constituting the necessity are:
In order to provide clarity and provide for the proper placement of juveniles, it is necessary that this act take effect immediately.