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Hicks v. North Florida Regional Evaluation and Treatment Center

Florida Court of Appeals, First District

December 23, 2019

Alfred Hicks III, Appellant,
North Florida Regional Evaluation and Treatment Center, Appellee.

         Not final until disposition of any timely and authorized motion under Fla. R. App. P. 9.330 or 9.331.

          On appeal from the Circuit Court for Alachua County. Denise Ferrero, Judge.

          Andy Thomas, Public Defender, and Megan Long, Assistant Public Defender, Tallahassee, for Appellant.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, and Timothy L. Newhall, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellee.

          ROWE, J.

         Alfred Hicks III, a forensic client committed to a state mental health facility, appeals an order authorizing the Florida Department of Children and Families to involuntarily medicate him.[*] Because the trial court complied with the requirements of section 916.107(3), Florida Statutes (2018), when it authorized the treatment, we affirm.


         Hicks was diagnosed with delusional disorder. The trial court declared Hicks incompetent to proceed to trial on the criminal charges against him and committed him to the custody of DCF. Eight months later, the administrator of the commitment facility petitioned the court, under section 916.107(3), for an order authorizing the involuntary treatment of Hicks, including the administration of psychotropic medications. The administrator asserted that Hicks was unable to give express and informed consent for his treatment.

         The court held an evidentiary hearing on the petition and Hicks testified. Hicks claimed he did not need treatment because he was not harming anyone. He refused to take his prescribed medications because he was concerned about the side effects. But he did not identify any side effects that prompted his concern.

         Dr. John Johnston, an expert in forensic psychiatry, also testified at the hearing. Dr. Johnston diagnosed Hicks with delusional disorder. Hicks' disorder manifested itself through many irrational beliefs. For example, he believed that it would be impossible for him to lose at trial, that he was a millionaire, and that the hospital was poisoning his food. He also believed that a group at the hospital was conspiring to prevent his discharge. Dr. Johnston opined that the best course of treatment for Hicks was long-term psychotherapy. But Hicks refused to talk about his symptoms or illness. The next best treatment option was medication. Dr. Johnston explained that Hicks' prognosis with medication was better than without it. He also opined that Hicks' competency could not be restored without medication.

         After filing the petition for involuntary treatment, Dr. Johnston sought an emergency treatment order because Hicks' anger and aggression over being involuntarily committed led to Hicks making threatening statements to multiple staff members at the hospital. Dr. James Yelton, a psychiatrist, opined that there had been a de-escalation in Hicks' aggressive behavior since he started taking the medication authorized by the emergency order.

         The hearing concluded and the trial court granted the petition for involuntary treatment. The court found that Hicks was unable to and refused to give express and informed consent to his treatment. And that Hicks refused to participate in therapeutic options offered to restore his competency. Because Hicks had been diagnosed with delusional disorder, the court found that treatment with psychotropic medications was essential to Hicks' care and did not present an unreasonable risk of serious, hazardous, or irreversible side effects.

         In support of its order, the trial court made these findings required by section 916.107(3): (1) Hicks preferred not to take medication; (2) Hicks suffered no adverse side effects from the psychotropic medication administered under the emergency order and there were no physical contraindications to the administration of the psychotropic medications; (3) Hicks' prognosis without treatment was poor, and his competence could not be restored without the use of psychotropic medications; and (4) Hicks' prognosis was better with drug treatment than without it.

         After the trial court found that the evidence supported Hicks' involuntary medication under the statute, Hicks' counsel argued that the trial court was also required to determine whether Hicks' involuntary medication was constitutionally permissible by considering the factors provided in Sell v. United States, 539 U.S. 166 (2003). The court found that it need not consider those factors because Sell did not apply when a court determined ...

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