§ 19.2-169.5

Evaluation of sanity at the time of the offense; disclosure of evaluation results

A. If, at any time before trial, the court finds, upon hearing evidence or representations of counsel for the defendant, that there is probable cause to believe that the defendant’s sanity will be a significant factor in his defense and that the defendant is financially unable to pay for expert assistance, the court shall appoint one or more qualified mental health experts to evaluate the defendant’s sanity at the time of the offense and, where appropriate, to assist in the development of an insanity defense. Such mental health expert shall be a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist who (i) has performed forensic examinations, (ii) has successfully completed forensic evaluation training recognized by the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, (iii) has demonstrated to the Commissioner competence to perform forensic evaluations, and (iv) is included on a list of approved evaluators maintained by the Commissioner. The defendant shall not be entitled to a mental health expert of his own choosing or to funds to employ such expert.

B. The evaluation shall be performed on an outpatient basis, at a mental health facility or in jail, unless the court specifically finds that outpatient services are unavailable, or unless the results of the outpatient evaluation indicate that hospitalization of the defendant for further evaluation of his sanity at the time of the offense is necessary. If either finding is made, the court, under authority of this subsection, may order that the defendant be sent to a hospital designated by the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services as appropriate for evaluation of the defendant under criminal charge. The defendant shall be hospitalized for such time as the director of the hospital deems necessary to perform an adequate evaluation of the defendant’s sanity at the time of the offense, but not to exceed 30 days from the date of admission to the hospital.

C. The court shall require the party making the motion for the evaluation, and such other parties as the court deems appropriate, to provide to the evaluators appointed under subsection A any information relevant to the evaluation, including, but not limited to (i) copy of the warrant or indictment; (ii) the names and addresses of the attorney for the Commonwealth, the attorney for the defendant and the judge who appointed the expert; (iii) information pertaining to the alleged crime, including statements by the defendant made to the police and transcripts of preliminary hearings, if any; (iv) a summary of the reasons for the evaluation request; (v) any available psychiatric, psychological, medical or social records that are deemed relevant; and (vi) a copy of the defendant’s criminal record, to the extent reasonably available.

D. The evaluators shall prepare a full report concerning the defendant’s sanity at the time of the offense, including whether he may have had a significant mental disease or defect which rendered him insane at the time of the offense. The report shall be prepared within the time period designated by the court, said period to include the time necessary to obtain and evaluate the information specified in subsection C.

E. The report described in subsection D shall be sent solely to the attorney for the defendant and shall be deemed to be protected by the lawyer-client privilege. However, the Commonwealth shall be given the report in all felony cases, the results of any other evaluation of the defendant’s sanity at the time of the offense, and copies of psychiatric, psychological, medical, or other records obtained during the course of any such evaluation, after the attorney for the defendant gives notice of an intent to present psychiatric or psychological evidence pursuant to § 19.2-168. In addition, in all cases, the evaluator shall send a redacted copy of the report removing references to the defendant’s name, date of birth, case number, and court of jurisdiction to the Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services for the purpose of peer review to establish and maintain the list of approved evaluators described in subsection A.

F. In any case where the defendant obtains his own expert to evaluate the defendant’s sanity at the time of the offense, the provisions of subsections D and E, relating to the disclosure of the evaluation results, shall apply.


1982, c. 653; 1986, c. 535; 1987, c. 439; 1996, cc. 937, 980; 2005, c. 428; 2009, cc. 813, 840; 2016, c. 445.


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