Heard: October 6, 2016.
Person, Criminal charges. Practice, Criminal, Sentence,
Dismissal, Competency to stand trial. Constitutional Law,
Equal protection of laws. Due Process of Law, Substantive
rights. Civil action commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court
for the county of Suffolk on January 29, 2016.
case was reported by Cordy, J.
Barusch, Committee for Public Counsel Services (Beth L.
Eisenberg also present) for the defendant.
A. Jordan, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.
Present: Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy,
& Budd, JJ.
G. L. c. 123, § 16 (f) (§
16 [f]), a defendant who is found
incompetent to stand trial is entitled to dismissal of the
criminal charges against him or her at the point
corresponding to one-half the maximum sentence the defendant
could have received if convicted of the most serious crime
with which he or she was charged. We consider in this case
how to calculate the date of dismissal when the most serious
crime is within the concurrent jurisdiction of both the
Superior Court Department and the District Court or Boston
Municipal Court (BMC) Department, but the case is pending in
the BMC. We conclude that the basis for the calculation is
the maximum sentence provided for in the statute, regardless
of the court in which the charges are pending at the time of
the calculation. We also conclude that in this case, pursuant
to § 16 (f), dismissal of the
charge before the computed date may nevertheless be
appropriate in the interest of justice.
3, 2012, a woman was stabbed with a pocket knife at the
Ashmont station of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation
Authority in the Dorchester section of Boston. Two days
later, the BMC issued a criminal complaint charging the
defendant, who has a history of mental illness, with assault
and battery by means of a dangerous weapon in violation of G.
L. c. 265, § 15A (b). He has been in custody ever since,
spending most of that time committed at Bridgewater State
Hospital (Bridgewater). Since the complaint issued, the
defendant has been competent to stand trial only
intermittently. The Commonwealth made attempts to proceed
to trial in the BMC during the periods in which the defendant
was competent, but each time the scheduled date approached,
the trial was continued or else the defendant was found to be
and 2015, the defendant moved on three separate occasions in
the BMC to dismiss the charge pursuant to § 16 (f_) .
Each of the motions was denied. In January, 2016, the
defendant again sought dismissal of the charge under §
16 (f_) . The judge denied the defendant's
motion. The defendant subsequently filed a
petition for relief under G. L. c. 211, § 3, in the
county court, seeking dismissal. A single justice reserved
and reported the case to the full court.
Dismissal date calculation.
Laws c. 123, § 16 (f),  ensures that a criminal defendant
who is incompetent to stand trial does not face an indefinite
pendency of criminal charges. Fossv.Commonwealth, 437 Mass. 584, 589 (2002). To that
end, an incompetent defendant's charges must be
dismissed on the day that he would have been eligible for
parole if he had been "convicted of the most serious
crime with which he was charged in court and sentenced to the
maximum sentence he could have received." G. L. c. 123,
§ 16 (f) . Under the statute, parole eligibility
"shall be regarded as [available on the final date of]
one half of the maximum . . . potential sentence."