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Reading is difficult. As a writer, I help the reader every way I can think of. As a reader, I work hard not to miss the big things in the middle of the road.

Monday, August 1, 2011

What Is the Maximum Term for Which a Defendant Is to Be Tried?

Randle P. McMurphy, the protagonist of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, is shocked to learn that instead of his term in the mental hospital's being limited to the term he would have served in prison, he was permanently committed.
In Texas, a defendant who is found incompetent to stand trial cannot be committed by the State to a mental hospital or other inpatient or residential facility for a period that exceeds the maximum term provided by law for the offense for which the defendant was to be tried. Reinke was indicted for attempted murder, a second-degree felony for which the ordinary punishment was two to twenty years. However, he had two prior convictions which enhanced his possible sentence to five to ninety-nine years or life. The question is: how long may he be held pursuant to the statute? Twenty years or ninety-nine years or life?
Justice Jeff Rose, writing for a panel that also included Bob Pemberton and David Puryear, answered that Reinke could only be held on the basis of his incompetency finding for twenty years. The "offense for which the defendant was to be tried" was attempted murder. The enhancements only increased the punishment; it did not increase the maximum term of the crime (Such a defendant could be subject to civil commitment notwithstanding the statute.). Hat tip to the ever-helpful TDCAA for bringing up this case.

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