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News from the Director

Recent Victory Highlights
November 23, 2009

This month's highlights from our victory blog include a reversal of the denial of a defendant’s Fourth Amendment suppression motion and a pair of cases reversing orders authorizing the involuntary administration of antipsychotic medication to incompetent criminal defendants.

Fourth Amendment Case:

In People v. Colbert, no. A121876, after unsuccessfully litigating a suppression motion, the defendant pleaded no contest to transportation and possession of cocaine base for sale. An officer had stopped the defendant's vehicle for an inoperative rear license plate light. The officer requested the defendant exit the car, conducted a patsearch for weapons, smelled marijuana on the defendant during the search, and then found drugs and drug paraphernalia on his person. The Court of Appeal agreed that the patdown search had not been justified by any specific facts or circumstances giving the officer reason to believe the defendant was armed and dangerous. The court also rejected the attorney general's arguments that the officer would have inevitably smelled the marijuana on the defendant, since the officer was entitled to stand as close to the defendant as he wanted. Our victory blog post on Colbert, which includes a link to the opinion, is here.

Forced Medication Cases:

In People v. Bell, no. A123979, upon finding appellant incompetent to stand trial, the trial court committed him to the state hospital and issued an order authorizing the hospital to administer antipsychotic medications involuntarily. The Court of Appeal reversed the forced medication order, finding the record lacked substantial evidence of the necessary statutory and constitutional requirements that (1) appellant lacked the capacity to make decisions regarding medication; (2) appellant required treatment with antipsychotic medication and would probable suffer serious harm without it. Lastly, no evidence in the record related to the efficacy of less intrusive alternatives to antipsychotic drugs. Our victory blog post on Bell, which includes a link to the opinion, is here.

In People v. Thomas, no. A124216, the defendant was also found incompetent to stand trial. After ordering appellant committed to the state hospital, the court asked her if she would consent to the administration of antipsychotic medication. Appellant responded that she would. Nevertheless, the court issued an order authorizing the state hospital to administer antipsychotic medication involuntarily should she withdraw her consent at a later date. The Court of Appeal reversed the involuntary medication order. According to Penal Code section 1370, if a person committed to the state hospital as incompetent to stand trial withdraws her consent to the administration of antipsychotic medication, the proper procedure is to return the defendant to court for a hearing on the medication issue. The trial court may not bypass this procedure by issuing a forced medication order directed at the possibility that an incompetent defendant might one day withdraw his or her consent. Our victory blog post on Thomas, which includes a link to the opinion, is here.

There are many victories posted on the victory blog, where you can peruse them all, or use the blog search engine to look for reversals in specific areas of law.

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