Innocent until proven guilty—it’s a phrase we have all heard, know, and accept. But there are circumstances where this simple concept is strained in its application, such as when a legally incompetent defendant is facing trial. After all, how can a defendant be proven guilty if he cannot stand trial? The Supreme Court of the United States has determined that forcibly medicating an incompetent defendant solely to render the defendant competent to stand trial is permissible under the Federal Constitution. However, the Federal Constitution provides only the floor-level of civil rights; states are free to set their own ceilings. The State of Maine had previously established a relatively high ceiling: Maine law provided a process for psychiatric hospitals across the state to administer short-term, forcible treatment of patients who exhibit dangerous behaviors, so as to minimize and control risk but in a manner limited by necessity. Nevertheless, a new Maine law went into effect in 2015 that adopted the federal standard, allowing a defendant to be forcibly medicated for the sole purpose of rendering the defendant competent to stand trial. Although this standard requires that certain conditions be met before treatment, the process allows forcible treatment to continue for indefinite periods of time, regardless of whether the defendant poses a risk to himself or others. At the heart of several concerns is a trepidation that Maine has stripped pretrial defendants of the civil liberties they had previously been afforded. This article utilizes the first case in Maine that has applied the new law to illustrate the concerns surrounding the new process. This article argues that the law attempts to fill a void that Maine does not have, and remains an ill fit for the State of Maine.
Ashley T. Perry,
Retributive Medication: A Discussion of a Maine Law Allowing Involuntary, Forcible Medication of a Pretrial Defendant for the Purpose of Rendering the Defendant Competent to Stand Trial,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol69/iss1/5