Adult Pre & Post-trial Forensic Services

Adult Pre-Trial Services

Pre-trial evaluations for competency to stand trial and/or mental condition at the time of the crime (insanity defense) are provided only under court order.

The department contracts with community mental health providers to provide pre-trial evaluations. If the outpatient provider is unable to determine a defendant’s competency to stand trial or mental condition at the time of the crime, or if the defendant’s current clinical condition requires immediate hospitalization, it is recommended to the court that the defendant be referred to an inpatient facility for further evaluation.

This inpatient evaluation, by statute, is limited to a maximum of 30 days. Inpatient evaluations and treatment are provided only after referral by a community mental health provider to the regional mental health institute serving the area or, when maximum security is required, at the Forensic Services Program at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute. The community mental health provider that refers the defendant for an inpatient evaluation also provides an assessment of need for security.

When a defendant is either found not competent to stand trial and committable or competent and committable (commitment criteria under T.C.A. § 33-6-501) because of mental illness, pre-trial treatment (T.C.A.§ 33-7-301(b)) is ordered by the court. The length of stay in the inpatient setting under T.C.A.§ 33-7-301(b) depends on the defendant’s progress in treatment and continued committability. The defendant can remain in the hospital only if committable. The RMHI regularly reports to the court on the defendant’s committability and progress toward competency to stand trial.

Adult Post-Trial Services

A post-trial evaluation (T.C.A.§33-7-303(a)) is an outpatient evaluation of an adult that has been found by the court not criminally responsible or “not guilty by reason of insanity”. The purpose of this evaluation is for determination of committability (Title 33, Chapter 6, Part 5) or, if not committable, the need for mental health services or the need for mental health services with supervision in the community under Mandatory Outpatient Treatment (T.C.A.§ 33-7-303(b)).

Following the outpatient evaluation, if the court finds that the individual meets commitment criteria, the court can issue an order for indefinite hospitalization under T.C.A. Section 33-7-303(c). The length of stay depends on the defendant’s progress in treatment and continued committability. The individual remains in the hospital as long as he/she remains committable. When no longer committable, the defendant may be released to the community with follow-up mental health services by an outpatient provider or released with supervision in the community under Mandatory Outpatient Treatment (Title 33, Chapter 6, Part 6, Tennessee Code Annotated).

During the post-conviction stage of a criminal proceeding, if it is believed that a defendant is incompetent to assist counsel in preparation for, or otherwise participate in, the post-conviction proceeding, the court may, upon its own motion, order that the defendant be evaluated on either an outpatient or inpatient basis, as may be appropriate. If the defendant is indigent, the amount and payment of the costs for any such evaluation shall be determined and paid for by the administrative office of the courts. If the defendant is not indigent, the cost of the evaluation shall be charged as court costs. If the evaluation can not be completed on an outpatient basis and if it is necessary to hospitalize the defendant in a department facility, such hospitalization shall not be for more than thirty (30) days and shall be subject to the availability of suitable accommodations. Any costs incurred by the administrative office of the courts shall be absorbed within the current appropriation for the indigent defense fund.

There are two other types of post-conviction evaluations which a court may order for someone convicted of a capital offense. One is a determination of whether or not the defendant suffers from intellectual disability, and another is an evaluation of the defendant's mental condition at the time of the offense, if such an evaluation was not previously ordered.

These evaluations must be conducted by an outpatient evaluator first, and the defendant is only hospitalized for further evaluation if the outpatient evaluator recommends inpatient evaluation.

For more information, contact:
Jeff Feix, Ph.D.
Director of Forensic and Juvenile Court Services
Dept. of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services