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California Appellate Court: Time Spent in Mental Hospital to Restore Competency is Time Served

by David M. Reutter

On March 28, 2023, the CaliforniaThird District Court of Appeals ordered a lower court to recalculate a prisoner’s custody credits for time spent in a facility to bring the defendant back to competency. The Court’s ruling follows one almost a year earlier by the state Court of Appeals, which found in April 2022 that defendants receiving treatment to restore competency must be given the same opportunity at sentencing for credit whether the time was served in a hospital or in a jail. [See: PLN, Mar. 2023, p.42.]

In the more recent case, a jury found Yarsoslav Viktorvic Shkrabak guilty of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury upon his mother. Based on the injury she suffered and a prior strike conviction he had for assault with a deadly weapon upon his father, the trial court doubled its sentence.

The Appellate Court’s order addressed two issues, though the Court certified only partial publication of its ruling. The unpublished portion included a motion to dismiss under People v. Superior Court, (1996) 13 Cal.4th 497 (Romero). That case requires the trial court to give “great weight” to the fact that Shkrabak’s “current offense is connected to mental illness and grant dismissal of the sentencing enhancement unless it finds dismissal would endanger public safety.”

The Court found that the trial court properly considered the mental illness, but it concluded that public safety required affirming the sentencing enhancement.

However, the Court found error in the failure to award Shkrabak “actual and conduct custody credits for the time spent in Napa State Hospital receiving competency treatment before trial.” The Court rejected the state Attorney General’s argument that disparate treatment of competent and incompetent defendants is justified and there was no equal protection violation.  The Court noted that state Senate Bill No. 317 specifically allows defendants “committed to a state hospital . . . because they have been found [incompetent to stand trial] . . . to earn conduct credits in the same manner as if they were in county jail.”

Thus, Shkrabak was “entitled to actual and conduct credits accrued for time spent in Napa State Hospital receiving treatment to return him to competency,” the Court concluded. The case was remanded to the trial court to recalculate Shkrabak’s custody credits accordingly. Shkrabak was represented by Truckee attorney Heather E. Shallenberger. See: People v. Shkrabak, 89 Cal. App. 5th 943 (2023).