20 CFR 404.1601

SSR 73-29

When criminal court found beneficiary not guilty of murder by reason of insanity under law of Colorado and committed him to State hospital (which was appointed representative payee on his behalf), held, such finding was not adjudication that beneficiary was insane for all purposes, and Social Security Administration will undertake development to determine whether beneficiary is capable of managing his own benefits and whether direct payment may be made to him.

R, a retirement insurance beneficiary, was charged with having committed murder in the first degree in February 1971, in the State of Colorado. The court found him to have been insane on that date and therefore not guilty of the offense for which he was charged. However, the court committed R to the State hospital for confinement and treatment.

Upon application by the State hospital, it was made representative payee on behalf of R without the Administration making further development of R's capability to manage his own benefits. In April 1973, R requested that payment of benefits be made directly to himself.

The issue presented here is whether a court commitment pursuant to criminal proceedings in the State of Colorado renders the individual legally incompetent, or otherwise has the same effect as a finding of legal incompetency for all purposes.

The law of Colorado (39-8-4(2)(a). Colo. Rev. Stat. 1963, vol. 11) provides, with respect to commitment pursuant to criminal proceedings, that where the verdict is that the defendant was insane at the time the alleged offense was committed, the court will commit him to a State institution for the care and treatment of the mentally ill or retarded until his discharge or conditional release. For any person charged with a "crime allegedly committed on or after June 2, 1965, the test for determination of the defendant's sanity for release from commitment, or his eligibility for conditional release, shall be: That the defendant has no abnormal mental condition which would be likely to cause him to be dangerous either to himself or to others or to the community in the reasonably forseeable future." 39-8-4(4)(A), Colo. Rev. Stat. 1963, vol. 10.

If, in a later proceeding, the court or jury find the defendant no longer insane, the court may order his discharge or conditional release on such terms as the court deems conducive to the best interests of the defendant and the community. 39-8-4(7), Colo. Rev. Stat. 1963, vol. 9.

Under a civil commitment, Colorado law provides for a determination of mental illness or mental deficiency. A determination of competence may be made after examination by two doctors, or a statement to that effect by the superintendent or chief medical officer of the hospital to which the individual was committed.

If thus appears that a person who has been found insane in a criminal proceeding and committed to a State institution may subsequently be found by a court or jury, after a hearing, to be no longer insane, and a person who has been found mentally ill or mentally deficient after a civil proceeding may subsequently be adjudicated mentally competent. The procedures are rigid, i.e., a person who has been found insane in a criminal proceeding may not avail himself of a civil proceeding to be adjudicated competent. Bartosic v. People, 163 Color. 267, 430 P.2d 83 (1967).

It has also been held, however, that a defendant who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in a criminal proceeding, was committed to the State hospital, escaped, and without having been found restored to sanity in an appropriate proceeding, married, and entered into a number of business contacts, could not recover, on the ground of mental incompetence, the amounts that he had paid on those contracts. The contracts were held to be voidable rather than void. David v. Colorado Kenworth Corp, 156 Colo. 98, 101, 396 P.2d 958, 960 (1964). Under Colorado law, it further has been stated that he test for criminal insanity and that required for a civil commitment order are not the same. McConnell v. People, 1957 Colo. 235, 239, 402 P.2d 75, 77 (1965).

Therefore, it appears that a finding of insanity by a criminal court and commitment to the State hospital do not necessarily render a defendant totally incompetent for all purposes, and hence a thorough review must be made as to the beneficiary's capacity to manage his own benefits.

Accordingly, it is held that under the circumstances presented here, development must be undertaken by the Administration to determine whether the beneficiary is capable of managing his own benefits and whether direct payment should be made to him.

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