Code of the District of Columbia

§ 24–531.03. Competence examinations.

(a) At any time after the prosecutor moves for a transfer from the Family Court to the Criminal Division of the Superior Court or charges a criminal offense by complaint, information, or indictment, either party may request, or the court on its own may order, that the defendant be examined to determine the defendant’s competence.

(b) When the issue of a defendant’s competence has been raised, the court shall order a preliminary screening examination before ordering a full competence examination pursuant to subsection (d) of this section.

(c)(1) A preliminary screening examination shall be performed either in the courthouse or on an outpatient basis by a psychiatrist or psychologist affiliated with the Department of Mental Health.

(2) The court shall schedule a return date or time for the defendant as early as possible following the order for the preliminary screening examination issued pursuant to subsection (b) of this section. In no case shall the return date be more than 3 business days after the order if the defendant is not released and no more than 5 business days after the order if the defendant is released.

(3) The examination shall be completed and a report submitted to the court in advance of the return date or time. The report shall indicate whether the defendant is competent, incompetent, or whether further evaluation is needed.

(4) The court shall consider the report of the preliminary screening examination, any arguments made by the parties, and any other information available to the court, and shall either:

(A) Find the defendant competent and resume the criminal case or transfer proceeding; or

(B) Order the defendant to submit to a full competence examination.

(d)(1) An order for a full competence examination pursuant to subsection (c)(4)(B) of this section shall direct the Department of Mental Health to examine the defendant. The full competence examination shall be performed by a psychiatrist or psychologist affiliated with the Department of Mental Health.

(2) The Department of Mental Health shall submit a written report to the court as to the defendant’s competence.

(3) Any psychiatrist or psychologist who participated in the examination shall be available to testify at any hearing involving the defendant’s competence.

(e) A full competence examination may be conducted on an inpatient or outpatient basis. The court may order the defendant committed to Saint Elizabeths Hospital or to the Department of Mental Health for an inpatient examination only after a finding by the court that:

(1) Placement in an inpatient treatment facility is necessary in order to conduct an adequate examination; or

(2) The defendant is unlikely to comply with an order for an outpatient examination.

(f)(1) If the court orders the defendant committed as an inpatient for a full competence examination under subsection (e) of this section, the commitment for examination shall not exceed 30 days, except that the commitment may be extended for a 15-day period for good cause shown.

(2)(A) The Department of Mental Health shall submit a written report to the court:

(i) As soon as it reaches a conclusion that the defendant is competent or is incompetent; or

(ii) Any time it determines that the criteria for an inpatient examination set forth in subsection (e) of this section are no longer met.

(B) If the defendant is reported incompetent, the report shall include an opinion regarding the likelihood of the defendant’s attaining competence in the foreseeable future or should state that no opinion has been formed on the likelihood of the defendant attaining competence.

(C) If a report indicates that the criteria for an inpatient examination set forth in subsection (e) of this section are no longer met, the court shall make new findings under subsection (e) of this section and, if it determines that the examination can be conducted on an outpatient basis, shall determine the defendant’s eligibility for pretrial release pursuant to subchapter I of Chapter 23 of Title 16 or subchapter II of Chapter 13 of Title 23, if it has not previously done so. If necessary, the court may enter a new order for a full competence examination to be completed on an outpatient basis.

(D) If the court receives either report required under subparagraph (A) of this paragraph more than one court day prior to the scheduled return date, the court shall have the defendant brought before the appropriate judge on the next court day following receipt of the report for appropriate proceedings under § 24-531.04.

(g)(1) If the court orders a full competence examination to be conducted on an outpatient basis, it shall be completed and a report submitted to the court in advance of the defendant’s return date as determined under § 24-531.04(a).

(2) The Department of Mental Health shall submit a written report to the court at any time it determines that the criteria for an inpatient examination set forth in subsection (e) of this section are met. If the court receives such a report, it shall schedule the matter for a hearing as soon as practicable, to determine the appropriate disposition under subsection (e) of this section.


(May 24, 2005, D.C. Law 15-358, § 103, 52 DCR 2015.)

Section References

This section is referenced in § 24-531.02 and § 24-531.09.