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The Fines Committee accepts applications to implement programs designed generally to provide an alternative to in-custody evaluation and restoration to competency, often involving case management, housing, wraparound services, and treatment. The Fines Committee employs a project cultivator, who coordinates with local stakeholders and providers statewide to help develop program proposals.
The Colorado Fines Committee was established by a consent decree in federal court, the outcome of a lawsuit brought by Disability Law Colorado against the State of Colorado due to excessively long waitlist times for criminal defendants ordered to be evaluated and restored to competency. The State of Colorado pays fines associated with excessive waitlist times to the Fines Committee, which disburses funds to local programs implemented to deflect individuals from the competency system.
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If a criminally-accused defendant lacks the mental wherewithal to contribute to his or her own defense, that person may be ordered by a judge to be evaluated for competency. When a person is ordered to be evaluated for competency, the court will pause the court proceedings for the case, except to reconvene to update the court and the parties on the status of competency evaluation and restoration. The pause will remain until the person is restored. Evaluation is conducted by a clinically-trained professional. If the person is deemed incompetent to proceed, the Colorado Department of Human Services will be ordered by the judge to “restore” the individual to competency.
What is competency?
Persons are typically found “incompetent to proceed” due to mental illness, brain injury, or intellectual or developmental disability. Restoration to competency is not simply psychiatric treatment as usual. It often involves psychiatric medication, but is also a specific educational protocol designed to help the defendant understand the court process, the court parties involved, and their own role in the criminal justice system. Defendants need not make a full psychiatric recovery to stand trial, but they do need to be able to understand their charges and court proceedings in a rational and factual manner, and be able to assist in their defense.
Incompetent to Proceed
If a person is restored to competency successfully, the pausing of the case is resumed, and the prosecution commences. If the person cannot be restored, the parties will attempt to find an alternative to prosecution, such as commitment to a long-term care facility.