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10th Finds Involuntary Medication Not Appropriate

By Betty Wang, JD | Last updated on

The Tenth Circuit has vacated a court order granting a motion to allow the involuntary medication of the defendant.

Reydecel Chavez is a native of Mexico and was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922, of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm, also in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922, and reentry of a removed alien, in violation of 8 U.S.C. § 1326(a) and (b).

Chavez was found incompetent to stand trial, due to his paranoid schizophrenia. However, he also refused antipsychotic medication that would help render him competent. The district court, in turn, ordered Chavez to be involuntarily medicated.

Four-Part Showing Required

The district court found that, under the four-part test as cited in United States v. Sell, the government must establish that:

  1. Important governmental interests are at stake;
  2. The involuntary medication will significantly further those interests;
  3. The involuntary medication is necessary to further those interests, e.g., less intrusive alternative
    treatments are unlikely to be effective; and
  4. The administration of the medication is "medically appropriate" and in the defendant's best medical interests.

Chavez argued that the second and fourth prong of the test were not met.

Lack of Personal Treatment

Chavez contends that by refusing to require the government to submit an individualized treatment plan that would specifically identify which medications would be measured to him, and at what doses, the district court therefore had insufficient evidence. Respectively, under the second and fourth parts, he claimed that the involuntary medication did not "significantly further" governmental interests nor that forcibly medicating him would be "medically appropriate.

The Tenth agreed with Chavez, and held that for an order that required involuntary medication upon a non-dangerous defendant should at least specify maximum dosages and a list of possible medications. Without this information, they held, the court wouldn't know about any side effects or whether or not the medication would even be appropriate.

The Tenth therefore vacated the district court's order and remanded for further proceedings.

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