N.J.S.A. 2C:4-6 – Determination of Fitness to Proceed; Effect of Finding of Unfitness; Proceedings if Fitness is Regained; etc.

2C:4-6 Determination of Fitness to Proceed; Effect of Finding of Unfitness; Proceedings if Fitness is Regained; Post-Commitment Hearing.

a. When the issue of the defendant’s fitness to proceed is raised, the issue shall be determined by the court. If neither the prosecutor nor counsel for the defendant contests the finding of the report filed pursuant to section 2C:4-5, the court may make the determination on the basis of such report. If the finding is contested or if there is no report, the court shall hold a hearing on the issue. If the report is received in evidence upon such hearing, either party shall have the right to summon and examine the psychiatrists or licensed psychologists who joined in the report and to offer evidence upon the issue.

b. If the court determines that the defendant lacks fitness to proceed, the proceeding against him shall be suspended, except as provided in subsection c. of this section. At this time, the court may commit him to the custody of the Commissioner of Human Services to be placed in an appropriate institution if it is found that the defendant is so dangerous to himself or others as to require institutionalization, or it shall proceed to determine whether placement in an out-patient setting or release is appropriate; provided, however, that no commitment to any institution shall be in excess of such period of time during which it can be determined whether it is substantially probable that the defendant could regain his competence within the foreseeable future.

If the court determines that the defendant is fit to proceed, but suffers from mental illness, as defined in section 2 of P.L.1987, c.116 (C.30:4-27.2), that does not require institutionalization, the court shall order the defendant to be provided appropriate treatment in the jail or prison in which the defendant is incarcerated. Where the defendant is incarcerated in a county correctional facility, the county shall provide or arrange for this treatment. The Department of Corrections shall reimburse the county for the reasonable costs of treatment, as determined by the Commissioner of Corrections, provided that the county has submitted to the commissioner such documentation and verification as the commissioner shall require.

c. If the defendant has not regained his fitness to proceed within three months, the court shall hold a hearing on the issue of whether the charges against him shall be dismissed with prejudice or held in abeyance.

The hearing shall be held only upon notice to the prosecutor and with an opportunity for the prosecutor to be heard. When the charges are not dismissed, each defendant’s case shall be specifically reviewed by the court at six-month intervals until an order is made by the court that the defendant stand trial or that the charges be dismissed.

There shall be a presumption that charges against a defendant who is not competent to proceed shall be held in abeyance. The presumption can be overcome only if the court determines, using the factors set forth in this subsection, that continuing the criminal prosecution under the particular circumstances of the case would constitute a constitutionally significant injury to the defendant attributable to undue delay in being brought to trial.

In determining whether the charges shall be held in abeyance or dismissed, the court shall weigh the following factors: the defendant’s prospects for regaining competency; the period of time during which the defendant has remained incompetent; the nature and extent of the defendant’s institutionalization; the nature and gravity of the crimes charged; the effects of delay on the prosecution; the effects of delay on the defendant, including any likelihood of prejudice to the defendant in the trial arising out of the delay; and the public interest in prosecuting the charges.

d.When the court, on its own motion or upon application of the commissioner, his designee or either party, determines after a hearing, if a hearing is requested, that the defendant has regained fitness to proceed, the proceedings shall be resumed.

e.(Deleted by amendment, P.L.1996, c.133).

f.The fact that the defendant is unfit to proceed does not preclude determination of any legal objection to the prosecution which is susceptible of fair determination prior to trial and without the personal participation of the defendant.

L.1978, c.95; amended 1979, c.178, s.13B; 1996, c.133, s.1; 1997, c.77, s.2; 1999, c.16, s.1.

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