Old law meets new medicine: revisiting involuntary psychotropic medication of the criminal defendant

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Civil Rights; *Coercion; Criminal Law; Decision Making; Humans; *Jurisprudence; Mental Competency; Mentally Ill Persons; Personal Autonomy; *Prisoners; *Psychotropic Drugs; Supreme Court Decisions; Treatment Refusal; United States


Health Services Research | Law | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


Summary: ... The government initially argued that Weston could adequately control his delusions in order to stand trial. ... Besides avoiding the ultimate constitutional question, the Court also expressly declined to specify under what circumstances involuntary psychotropic medication of a pretrial defendant could occur - that is, what substantive standard the government would have to meet in order to justify involuntary medication. ... Mental health conditions rendering one imminently dangerous justify emergency involuntary psychotropic medication, notwithstanding one's status as a pretrial criminal defendant, but general standards for medication for the purpose of restoring competence to stand trial cannot be based solely upon emergency or dangerousness requirements. ... Restoring or maintaining a criminal defendant's competence to stand trial, through involuntary psychotropic medication, may be a compelling government interest. ... Restoring or maintaining a criminal defendant's competence to stand trial - through involuntary psychotropic medication - may implicate specific trial-related rights, which must be independently protected anytime involuntary medication is undertaken. ... Maintaining or restoring the defendant's competence to stand trial cannot alone justify involuntary psychotropic medication without a searching inquiry that medications are medically appropriate, that there is no less intrusive alternative to achieve competence, and that the defendant's trial-related rights are protected. ...


Wis L Rev. 2001;2:307-80.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Wisconsin law review

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed