Stiavetti v. Ahlin (State Hospital Suit)

Active Case
Apr 26, 2016

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The ACLU Foundation of Northern California has filed a lawsuit against California’s Department of State Hospitals (DSH) and Department of Developmental Services (DDS) for violating the constitutional rights of defendants who have been declared incompetent to stand trial due to having a psychiatric or intellectual disability. The lawsuit demands that the state reduce the lengthy delays that these defendants face in being transferred from county jail to the proper treatment facilities.

Under state and federal law, people who lack the ability to understand the nature of criminal court proceedings cannot be tried or sentenced. DSH or DDS must transfer them out of jail in a timely manner so they can be evaluated and treated, and in some cases, regain the ability to participate in court proceedings and address their charges. But in California, defendants wait in jail for several months – sometimes over a year – before they are transferred to a treatment facility.

The suit was filed on behalf of family members of several criminal defendants who were not transferred out of jail in a timely manner. These defendants, as well as the hundreds of other similar defendants around the state, have been exposed to dangerous jail conditions – with devastating consequences to their health and well-being.

On April 26, 2016, the Superior Court denied the government's motions to dismiss the case on demurrer and to strike the complaint.

On March 22, 2019, the court ruled the state “has systematically failed to provide due process."

Learn more

ACLU Sues State Hospital System for Failing Criminal Defendants with Psychiatric & Intellectual Disabilities (July 29, 2015)

Court Rules State Violating Due Process Rights of Defendants with Psychiatric and Intellectual Disabilities (March 26, 2019)

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