Prescribing a Balance: The Texas Legislative Responses to Sell v. United States

31 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2010

See all articles by Brian D. Shannon

Brian D. Shannon

Texas Tech University School of Law

Date Written: February 20, 2010


In Sell v. United States, decided in 2003, the United States Supreme Court addressed the question of “whether the Constitution permits the Government to administer antipsychotic drugs involuntarily to a mentally ill criminal defendant – in order to render that defendant competent to stand trial for serious, but nonviolent crimes.” The Court concluded that the Constitution does permit doing so “in limited circumstances…upon satisfaction of conditions” that the Court delineated. This Article will first address the Court’s parameters for determining when the administration of antipsychotic medications on an involuntary basis is permissible. The remainder of the Article, however, will discuss the various approaches taken by the Texas Legislature to codify certain hearing mechanisms to address the thorny issues raised by Sell. Specifically, after briefly addressing Sell, this Article will analyze an array of Texas legislative enactments from 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009, all of which have addressed the issue of a defendant’s refusal to take antipsychotic medication after having been adjudicated incompetent to stand trial, but prior to the criminal trial on the merits.

Keywords: Medical Consent, Mentally Ill, Involuntary Treatment

JEL Classification: K14

Suggested Citation

Shannon, Brian D., Prescribing a Balance: The Texas Legislative Responses to Sell v. United States (February 20, 2010). St. Mary’s Law Journal, Forthcoming, Texas Tech Law School Research Paper No. 2010-07, Available at SSRN:

Brian D. Shannon (Contact Author)

Texas Tech University School of Law ( email )

1802 Hartford
Lubbock, TX 79409
United States
806-742-1355 (Phone)
806-742-0251 (Fax)

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