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Commonwealth v. Calvaire

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

January 11, 2017

COMMONWEALTH
v.
DONALD CALVAIRE.

          Heard: October 6, 2016.

         Incompetent 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.

         The case was reported by Cordy, J.

          M. Barusch, Committee for Public Counsel Services (Beth L. Eisenberg also present) for the defendant.

          Darcy A. Jordan, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd, JJ.

          BUDD, J.

         Under 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.

         Background.

         On July 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).[1] Since the complaint issued, the defendant has been competent to stand trial only intermittently.[2] 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 incompetent.[3]

         In 2014 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.[4] 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.

         Discussion.

         1. Dismissal date calculation.

         General Laws c. 123, § 16 (f), [5] 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, ยง 16 (f) . Under the statute, parole eligibility "shall be regarded as [available on the final date of] one half of the maximum . . . potential sentence." ...


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