JPL-2009-37-4-01, GUEST EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION: Whither Sell v. U.S.? Involuntary Medication for Competency Restoration Treatment
On June 16, 2003, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the court must satisfy certain conditions before authorizing involuntary administration of psychiatric medication to render a mentally ill defendant competent to stand trial (Sell v. United States). The opinion lists them in the following order. First, it must be demonstrated that governmental interests are at stake in bringing to trial an individual accused of a serious crime. Second, forced medication will significantly further government interests by being substantially likely to render the defendant competent to stand trial and substantially unlikely to have side effects that will interfere significantly with the defendant’s ability to assist counsel in conducting a defense. Third, it must be determined that involuntary medication is necessary to further those interests and find that no alternative, less intrusive treatments are likely to achieve substantially the same results. Fourth, the Court must conclude that administering the drugs is medically appropriate. Additionally, the Court may authorize involuntary treatment with medication on alternative grounds, such as if the defendant is dangerous or gravely disabled. These considerations have been dubbed “Sell” criteria.