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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: June 6, 2023 09:44 AM
From: Senator Doug Mastriano
To: All Senate members
Subject: Ensuring PA Courts Cannot Release Mentally Ill Violent Criminals into our Communities
Soon, I will introduce legislation to ensure that charges against violent criminals are not dismissed by courts simply because the criminal is mentally ill.

Recently, national criminal defense advocacy groups have sought to change the law to allow judges to dismiss charges that include murder, mass violence, rape, and other heinous crimes. These groups have filed amicus curiae briefs seeking to circumvent the Constitutional home rule authority. The PA Supreme Court has recently ruled in Commonwealth v. Humphrey, 283 A.3d 275 (Pa. 2022) that judges may dismiss all criminal charges if the court finds to its satisfaction that the person charged and committed to a mental institution has not regained competence, or has regained competence, and it would be unjust in the court's view to resume the prosecution.
The PA Constitution has expressly granted this power only to elected prosecutors.  This new change in the law by judicial activism will endanger Pennsylvania residents in that hate crime offenders, mass shooters, murderers, rapists and other violent criminals who are deemed mentally incompetent for a time could be independently released back onto the street with all criminal charges dismissed by an activist judge even if the locally elected prosecutor deems that person unsafe and needing prosecution for their crime(s).
The PA Supreme Court admitted in its ruling that the current statute was "ambiguous" and in so doing, overturned the ruling of the lower court and created precedent of first impression in Pennsylvania.

My legislation will amend Section 403 of the Mental Health Procedures Act to state that only district attorneys elected by the people are lawfully and constitutionally authorized to charge or dismiss criminal charges against any defendant, except where jurisdiction includes the Attorney General of PA, or where a court finds the charges are unlawful. Under my bill, an activist court will no longer be permitted to dismiss charges against a violent criminal simply because the court believes the violent criminal is mentally ill and incompetent for trial..  
Please join me in supporting this commonsense protection of the public and our constitutional separation of powers.

Introduced as SB974