United States v. Brooks

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 05-07-2014
  • Case #: 12-30264
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Court Judge Christen for the Court; Circuit Court Judges Fisher and Gould
  • Full Text Opinion

In order to allow one to regain competency to stand trial, the government may order the administration of antipsychotic drugs against the defendant’s will, but only if there is no other way to administer the drugs and the four Sell factors are met.

Joseph Brooks, who has had a long history of mental health issues, including paranoid schizophrenia, appealed the district court’s authorization of the involuntary administration of antipsychotic medications so that he could regain competency to stand trial. Because analysis under the proper legal test is fact-intensive and more than a year had past since the test was last applied, the panel remanded the case for a new inquiry. Nonetheless, the panel took the opportunity to provide guidance on the issue. In order to restore one’s competency, the government may give involuntary medication, but only if it meets the four Sell factors in Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003). However, these factors may only be considered if there is no other way to administer involuntary medication. The four Sell factors are: “(1) there are ‘important governmental interests’ at stake; (2) ‘involuntary medication will significantly further those concomitant state interests;’ (3) ‘involuntary medication is necessary to further those interests;’ and (4) ‘administration of the drugs is medically appropriate, i.e., in the patient’s best medical interest in light of his medical conditions’” (emphases in original). The panel spent a significant amount of time explaining how to evaluate the first factor. In short, one should consider (1) the seriousness of the underlying crime according to United States v. Hernandez-Vasquez, 513 F.3d at 908, 917-919 (9th Cir. Cal. 2007), (2) the amount of time one would spend in confinement without being medicated versus the time one would spend with the administration of involuntary medication, and (3) “any other significant factors that could strengthen or weaken” this first factor. VACATED AND REMANDED.

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