Texas Stamp


PD-0034-20 04/01/2020

 1. “Article 46B.0095 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows for commitment of an incompetent defendant for the ‘maximum term provided by law for the offense for which the defendant was to be tried.’ The maximum term of confinement for a juvenile adjudicated for a first-degree felony offense is forty years if the State obtains grand jury approval for a determinate-sentence. What, then, is ‘the maximum term provided by law’ for determining the length of mental-health commitment for a juvenile who is accused of a crime severe enough to be determinate-sentence eligible but is found unfit to proceed before a grand jury could make a determinate-sentence finding?”

2. “Should the Second Court of Appeals have considered the State’s defense that it was prohibited from pursuing a determinate-sentence finding from the grand jury because the juvenile was found unfit to proceed and the judicial proceedings were stayed as a matter of law?”

Brown was 12 years old when he allegedly committed aggravated sexual assault of a child. Because of his age at the time of the offense, he cannot be certified to stand trial as an adult. But under Family Code § 53.045(a)(5), he is eligible for a determinate sentence because of the offense he is accused of. A determinate sentence expands the possible range of probated and custodial sentences; without it, a juvenile cannot be kept on probation or in custody beyond his 19th birthday. For a first-degree felony like ASAC, the maximum determinate sentence is 40 years under Family Code § 54.04(d)(3). To obtain a determinate sentence, the State must obtain grand jury approval. Before the State sought grand jury approval in this case, Brown was found unfit to proceed (the juvenile equivalent of incompetent to stand trial), the juvenile proceedings were stayed, and he was committed to a mental facility. Under Family Code § 55.44, his case was transferred to district court on his 18th birthday because he was still committed and there had been no adjudication of his case. When he turned 19, he filed a pretrial writ alleging that his continued mental-health commitment was unlawful under Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 46B.0095(a), which provides that a mental commitment cannot last beyond “the maximum term provided by law for the offense for which the defendant was to be tried.” The trial court denied him relief, and he appealed.

The court of appeals held that because the State had not yet obtained grand-jury approval for a determinate sentence, the maximum term expired on Brown’s 19th birthday. It rejected the State’s argument that the stay of the proceedings prevented it from obtaining grand-jury approval.

The State argues that the plain language of 46B.0095 does not require determinate-sentence approval from the grand-jury. It also contends that the purpose of 46B.0095 is to extend commitment to the maximum possible punishment for the offense. Consequently, it argues that determinate-sentence eligibility is all that should be required. It relies on Ex parte Reinke, 370 S.W.3d 387 (Tex. Crim. App. 2012), which held that offense-level enhancement allegations but not punishment-stage ones would expand the “maximum term,” and argues that determinate-sentence is similar to other jurisdictional elements like felony theft and felony DWI. It also contrasts 46B.0095’s language with that of Family Code § 55.44(b), which, in the case of restoration of competency, provides that the defendant’s maximum punishment is “the maximum period of confinement the defendant could have received if the defendant had been adjudicated for the delinquent conduct while still a child and within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.” It argues that Art. 46B.0095, which applies when competency is never restored, relates to the maximum for the offense, not the particular defendant. Finally, the State argues that the court of appeals should have considered its arguments that the stay prevented its seeking grand jury approval and that the existence of the stay would have rendered void any filing of a grand jury approval in the juvenile court.

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