Montana State Legislature
HJ 4: Criminal Proceedings and Commitment of Mental Illness
Study Background: Montana is one of four states in the United States that does not allow a criminal defendant to raise the so-called "insanity defense" to avoid conviction on the grounds that the defendant was suffering from a mental disorder that made the defendant unable to understand the criminal nature of the acts at issue or to confirm to the requirements of law. The Montana Legislature eliminated the insanity defense in 1979. Instead, Montana uses medical legal categories for criminal defendants and offenders, including guilty but mentally ill, not guilty due to mental illness, and unfit to proceed to trial. If a judge determines that a person was guilty of a crime but suffered from a mental disorder at the time the crime was committed, the judge must sentence the person to the director of the Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS) for placement in an appropriate facility. An increasing number of these adult commitments has placed pressure on the department and its facility for people who have been criminally committed to the department. Since the creation in 2016 of the 54-bed Forensic Mental Health Facility at Galen for adults who are criminally committed to DPHHS, the Legislature has not closely examined the facility's role in the mental health and criminal justice system.
House Joint Resolution 4 (2021), sponsored by Sen. Mary Caferro, requested that an interim committee:
analyze the legal framework of the existing statutes for determining criminality of defendants with mental illness, including disposition, treatment, sentencing, conditional release, and monitoring of the defendants; and
examine the use of the Forensic Mental Health Facility, including criteria for admission, costs of operation, transfers to the Montana State Prison or other correctional facilities, availability of the facility for people being held in local correctional facilities, and the optimal use of the facility in Montana's mental health and criminal justice systems.
Documents generated by the study are posted on this page. To view committee meetings in the 2021-2022 interim, click on the Meeting Minutes tab on the committee's home page.
Final Study Materials
- HJ 4 Study Summary -- Revised and approved August 2022
- LC 282 - Generally revise laws related to a defendant criminally committed to the Department of Public Health and Human Services
August 2022 Materials
June 2022 Materials
May 2022 Materials
March 2022 Materials
Just and Well: Rethinking How States Approach Competency to Stand Trial -- CSG Justice Center
- Presentation slides -- Hallie Fader-Towe and Sheila Tillman
- Presentation slides (March 2022 version) -- Bowman Smelko
- Speaking notes -- Dr. Virginia Hill
January 2022 Materials
- Legal overview -- Legislative Services Division (LSD)
- Presentation slides: Understanding Montana Mental Disease and Disorder -- Bowman Smelko, PsyD, ABPP
Background Materials Distributed to the Committee
- Competence to Stand Trial Systems, August 2021 -- National Judicial Task Force to Examine State Courts' Response to Mental Illness
- Just and Well: Rethinking How States Approach Competency to Stand Trial, October 2020 -- CSG Justice Center and others