The Florida Department of Children and Families seeks certiorari relief from a trial court order requiring it to place a chronically homeless, criminal defendant, who is not restorable to competency to stand trial, in a secure, locked facility to prevent him from wandering off and providing
Facts and Procedural History
C.Z. is a mentally ill individual who has been cycling through the criminal justice system for more than ten years. The encounter which resulted in this case occurred on March 11, 2010. On that date, City of Miami police arrested C.Z. on a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief, which escalated into felony charges of resisting arrest and battery on a law enforcement officer. In May 2010, the trial court ordered C.Z. to be evaluated to determine his competency to stand trial. On June 29, 2010, the trial court held an evidentiary hearing, and found him incompetent to stand trial. This in turn led to an order of involuntary commitment to the Department for treatment pursuant to section 916.13, Florida Statutes (2011).
On May 18, 2011, after further psychological testing, the trial court deemed C.Z. non-restorable. This determination meant C.Z. could no longer be held under section 916.13. See Oren v. Judd, 940 So.2d 1271 (Fla. 2d DCA 2006). Nevertheless, it was plain to all involved — the judge, the prosecutor and defense counsel — that while C.Z. failed to meet the legal requirements necessary to be declared competent to stand trial, he was also not capable of caring for himself. For the most part, the mental health professionals also held the opinion that C.Z. was ineligible for involuntary civil commitment under the Baker Act. See § 394.467, Fla. Stat. (2011). By default, the only option the trial court had available to provide placement for C.Z. was through conditional release, pursuant to section 916.17 of the Florida Statutes and Florida Rules of Criminal Procedures 3.212(d) and 3.219. With the assistance of the State, Office of the Public Defender, and all available mental health professionals and facilities, a succession of judges assigned to this case, including the one who issued the order on appeal, made yeopersons' efforts to lawfully secure C.Z. from self-harm (often traceable to his failure to self-medicate), as well as harm by others, and to protect the community if C.Z. returned to living on the streets. The following is a chronology of those efforts:
With this last order, the two-year cooperative efforts of the State, public defender and trial court to provide mental health assistance to C.Z. dissolved.
With the exception of short-term crisis stabilization, all of C.Z.'s court-ordered placements during the two-year period were to facilities which were lightly staffed and not secured or locked in any conventional sense. Generally, this is the type of facility to which a defendant is committed under the conditional release statute for longer term residency and outpatient psychiatric services. In contrast, commitment and treatment pursuant to section 916.13 occurs in secured and locked facilities. However, the liberty interests, which lie at the heart of our nation's heritage, preclude the State from holding an individual indefinitely against his will on criminal charges when it is plain that he can never be
"Certiorari review is proper when it is alleged that the circuit court's interpretation of a statute violates clearly established law or when it fails to follow the dictates of a statute, and the error is sufficiently egregious as to result in a miscarriage of justice." In re Asbestos Litig., 933 So.2d 613, 615 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006) (citing Allstate Ins. Co. v. Kaklamanos, 843 So.2d 885, 889 (Fla.2003)); see also Ivey v. Allstate Ins. Co., 774 So.2d 679, 682 (Fla.2000). Certiorari jurisdiction lies to rectify a trial court order to the Department to assume treatment responsibilities for an individual beyond what is required by statute. See Dep't of Children & Families v. Carmona, 159 So.3d 165 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015); Dep't of Children & Family Servs. v. Amaya, 10 So.3d 152, 154 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009); Fla. Dep't of Children & Families v. Davis, 923 So.2d 1290 (Fla. 3d DCA 2006).
We do not underestimate the predicament in which the trial judge found herself in this case. For two years, the court, the State and the Office of the Public Defender had labored to provide assistance to C.Z. As of the time of the hearing in this case, C.Z. could no longer be held under section 916.13, and he was ineligible for involuntary commitment under the Baker Act. C.Z. had been placed in and walked out of various residential treatment facilities, with interim periods in stabilization facilities. As the Department's diversion specialist opined, "I don't think there's anything that's offered in the community right now that he hasn't been to or has been to." C.Z.'s preferred living arrangement, by all accounts, is on the streets of the City of Miami; but, when allowed to live there, C.Z. "decompensates." The cycle then repeats.
On these facts, the trial court took what was her only last shot at providing needed assistance to C.Z. She ordered the Department to create a placement for C.Z.:
In so doing, the trial judge acknowledged the only possible authority to support her decision was section 916.17. This statute, entitled "Conditional release," reads in relevant part:
(emphasis added). Unfortunately, the statute does not support the action taken by the trial court.
By its terms, subsection (1) of the statute authorizes an outpatient alternative to a locked involuntary commitment environment. The subsection expressly states that it is to be employed "in lieu of an involuntary commitment." "In lieu of" means "in place of." Bryan A. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage, 449 (2d ed. 1995). Here, "in lieu of" means in place of involuntary commitment. The provision carries out the intent of the Florida legislature expressed in section 916.105(3) that "evaluation and services to defendants who have mental illness ... be provided in community settings, in community residential facilities, or in civil facilities, whenever feasible." In our view, this subsection does not and is not intended to create a separate statutory foundation for use by a trial court to order the Department to house and treat a mentally ill person who has been found non-restorable to competency to stand trial.
Nor does subsection (2) of the conditional release statute assist the court in upholding the commitment ordered in this case. This subsection first establishes that in the event a defendant has failed to comply with the conditions of his release, the conditions may be modified. Here, the court has found that there is no acceptable modification that is available. Subsection (2) then continues: "The court may also order that the defendant be returned to the [D]epartment if it is found, after the appointment and report of experts, that the person meets the criteria for involuntary commitment under s. 916.13 or s. 916.15." C.Z. meets neither of these requirements. As we have noted already, C.Z. has been found to be non-restorable under section 916.13, and section 916.15 deals with defendants who have been adjudicated not guilty by reason of insanity. Thus, this subsection is likewise inapplicable in this case.
Counsel for C.Z. argues, nevertheless, that the Department is statutorily required to create "someplace for C.Z. to go." Counsel reminds us that even under medication, C.Z. is actively psychotic. He further points out the fact that, chiefly because C.Z. will not obtain the required medication or self-medicate while living on the streets, C.Z. deteriorates to a sub-human existence.
The case before us is indistinguishable from Carmona, 159 So.3d at 165. As in our case, the trial court found William Carmona incompetent to proceed to trial, and non-restorable. The trial court then ordered Mr. Carmona to be placed indefinitely in the custody of the Department pursuant to the conditional release provision of section 916.17(1), and that the Department assume the cost of the placement. The Second District Court of Appeal quashed the order of the circuit court, stating:
159 So.3d at 167. In Carmona, as in this case, the statutory criteria were not met.
Amaya, 10 So.3d at 152, cited by the Second District Court of Appeal in Carmona, is a similar case. There, the defendant was arrested for forceful sexual battery of his 13-year-old stepdaughter. The day after his arrest, he complained of weakness in his left side and continuous headache and was transported to the hospital. He was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and was advised he had approximately one year to live. In further proceedings, Amaya was found not competent to proceed to trial, and that he was not likely to be restored to competency because of the advanced stage of his brain tumor. The trial court ordered him to be conditionally released to the care and custody of the Department pursuant to section 916.17. The Fourth District Court of Appeal quashed the order. As in Carmona, and as we decide today, that Court found that "Section 916.17 provides an alternative to placement in a treatment facility for defendants committed to DCF under section 916.13. Contrary to the trial court's order, an incompetent defendant may not be committed to DCF if the statutory criteria [in section 916.13] are not met." Id. at 155-56.
When a defendant is found non-restorable to competency and, therefore, does not meet the criteria for commitment, the next step is either to initiate civil commitment under the "Baker Act" or to release the
Context requires us to remind ourselves that any assertion the court lacked statutory authority for its action in this case must be analyzed with utmost care. The involuntary commitment statute of this state is a "massive curtailment of liberty." Shuman v. State, 358 So.2d 1333, 1335 (Fla.1978) (quoting Humphrey v. Cady, 405 U.S. 504, 509, 92 S.Ct. 1048, 31 L.Ed.2d 394 (1972)). As the Florida Supreme Court recognized in Pullen v. State, 802 So.2d 1113, 1117 (Fla.2001), "an individual who faces involuntary commitment to a mental health facility has a liberty interest at stake." See also State v. Goode, 830 So.2d 817 (Fla.2002). "Those whom the State seeks to involuntarily commit to a mental institution are entitled to the protection of our Constitutions...." Shuman, 358 So.2d at 1335; see also Morel v. Wilkins, 84 So.3d 226 (Fla.2012); Mitchell v. State, 911 So.2d 1211 (Fla. 2005). The Florida Legislature recognizes as much in the preamble to Chapter 916. See § 916.105(3), Fla. Stat. (2014) (stating that "It is the intent of the Legislature that treatment or training programs for defendants who are found to have mental illness ... and are involuntarily committed... be provided in a manner ... which insures the rights of the defendants as provided in this chapter.").
In the instant case, the trial court used section 916.17 as its statutory authority to find a placement for C.Z. beginning in May 2011, when C.Z. was first found to be non-restorable to competency and no longer met the criteria for involuntary commitment under section 916.13. Under subsection (2), the trial court modified C.Z.'s release conditions on five different occasions for non-compliance. In an effort to find adequate placement, the trial court ordered the Department to "place [C.Z.] in a secure locked facility to provide for his daily needs ... and to prevent him from wondering (sic) and becoming a danger to himself and others." To implement this directive, the trial court returned C.Z. to the custody of the Department. The order is no different in its effect on C.Z. than the original order of commitment issued under section 916.13(1) of the Florida Statutes, albeit with fewer safeguards.
Due to the statutory constraints, the trial court was faced with the difficult decision of either placing C.Z. in an unsecured community residential facility, against the advice of the evaluating psychologists, or releasing C.Z. out on the street. However, as was well stated in Barnett, 124 So.3d at 433:
We quash the order under review.
Petition granted, order quashed.