STATE v. KEIR JOHNSON, SC 18703
Judicial District of New London
Criminal; Whether Court Properly Dismissed Charges after Defendant was Found not Competent and not Restorable to Competency; Whether Nolle and Statute of Limitations Provisions of General Statutes § 54-56d (m) apply to a Defendant not Charged with a Crime Resulting in Death or Serious Physical Injury. The defendant was charged with motor vehicle infractions, a misdemeanor and the felony of criminal violation of a protective order. Following competency proceedings under General Statutes § 54-56d to determine whether the defendant was able to understand the proceedings against him or assist in his own defense, the court adjudged the defendant not competent to stand trial and determined that there was no substantial probability that he could be restored to competency. The defendant, who was then civilly committed to the department of developmental services, moved that the charges be dismissed, claiming that the one year statute of limitations for prosecuting the infractions and misdemeanor had expired. As to the felony charge, the defendant argued that, as it had been found that he could not be restored to competency and as there is no statutory mechanism for further review of that finding, there was no cause to continue the prosecution. The state opposed the motion to dismiss, citing General Statutes § 54-56d (m), which governs the release or placement of a defendant who will not attain competency. That statute, after providing for periodic review of an incompetency finding for a defendant charged with a crime that resulted in death or serious physical injury, states that "[t]he court shall dismiss, with or without prejudice, any charges for which a nolle prosequi is not entered when the time within which the defendant may be prosecuted for the crime with which the defendant is charged, as provided in section 54-193 . . . has expired." The state argued that the General Statutes § 54-193 limitation periods for prosecuting the defendant - a year for the lesser crimes and five years for the felony - did not begin to run until the defendant was found not competent and not restorable, and that the charges should remain pending until (1) the state entered nolles, or (2) the limitation periods expired. The trial court disagreed and dismissed the charges without prejudice, ruling that when a defendant charged with a crime not resulting in death or serious physical injury is found not competent and not restorable to competency and has been referred for civil commitment, the prosecution abates and the criminal court relinquishes jurisdiction over the person. The court held that the above-quoted statutory language applies only to defendants charged with crimes resulting in death or serious physical injury. The state appeals, claiming that § 54-56d (m) dictates that the court should have retained jurisdiction until the charges were nolled or the § 54-193 limitation periods - which the state asserts began running anew when the defendant was found not competent and not restorable - expired. Alternately, the state argues that the commencement of the prosecutions tolled the § 54-193 limitation periods, and that those time periods resumed running when the defendant was found not competent and not restorable. The state also contends that dismissal of the felony charge was improper because, by any calculation, the five year limitation period for prosecuting that charge had not yet expired. The defendant claims that this appeal is improper because the state is not aggrieved by the ruling dismissing the charges without prejudice and because that ruling does not constitute an appealable final judgment.