Senate approves Padden bill to update mental-evaluation law

Senator-Padden-2015_CROPPEDToday the Senate approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden that would allow courts to order a mental evaluation of an offender, even if the Department of Corrections does not file a presentence report. While such reports are required, they are no longer routinely prepared by DOC.

“One of the most important things that our criminal-justice system can do is properly identify those offenders suffering from mental illness,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “Current law is an impediment to providing mental evaluations, because it requires that the order be based on a presentence report that DOC no longer produces. This bill updates the law to acknowledge this reality.”

Padden introduced Senate Bill 5101, in part, due to the 2013 judgment in State v. Locke. In that case, the trial court sentenced the defendant to 12 months’ confinement and ordered a mental-health evaluation and treatment as a sentencing condition without first obtaining the required presentence report. The state conceded the error and the case was sent back to the trial court to vacate the sentence condition.

“This was a case of the law not keeping up with real-life practices,” said Padden, who chairs the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “By making this technical change, we will be making sure that those offenders who need treatment for mental illness will receive that care. Ultimately, this will help our criminal justice system better protect the public, once those offenders are released.”

SB 5101 was approved by a vote of 47-0, and now heads to the House of Representatives for its consideration.