Simms v. Md. Dep't of Health, 1898, Sept. Term, 2017

CourtCourt of Special Appeals of Maryland
Citation240 Md.App. 294,203 A.3d 48
Docket NumberNo. 1898, Sept. Term, 2017,1898, Sept. Term, 2017
Decision Date27 February 2019

240 Md.App. 294
203 A.3d 48

Romechia SIMMS

No. 1898, Sept. Term, 2017

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

February 27, 2019

Argued by: Michael T. Torres (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellant.

Argued by: Ari S. Elbaum (Brian E. Frosh, Atty. Gen., on the brief), Baltimore, MD, for Appellee.

Panel: Wright, Nazarian, Alan M. Wilner (Senior Judge, Specially Assigned), JJ.

Wright, J.

240 Md.App. 298


In February 2016 in the Circuit Court for Charles County, Romechia Simms, appellant, was found not criminally responsible ("NCR") for the death of her three-year-old son. She was conditionally released from commitment to the Maryland Department of Health ("the Department"), appellees, subject to conditions. Alleging that Ms. Simms violated her Order of Conditional Release, the State petitioned the circuit court to issue a hospital warrant pursuant to Md. Code (2001, 2008 Repl. Vol.), § 3-121(c) of the Criminal Procedure Article

240 Md.App. 299

("CP"). The circuit court granted the relief requested and issued a hospital warrant directing that Simms be transported to the hospital for an administrative review hearing.

In September 2017, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") recommended that Ms. Simms be released from confinement subject to several conditions, including a voluntary stay at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center ("Perkins Hospital") until she could be placed at an appropriate residential treatment center. In October 2017, the circuit court accepted the ALJ's recommendations.

Before being conditionally released, Ms. Simms filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus with the Circuit Court for Howard County, the county where the hospital was

203 A.3d 51

located, alleging that she was being unconstitutionally confined. The circuit court found that Ms. Simms was not entitled to relief because the hospital warrant issued by the Circuit Court for Charles County was lawful. Ms. Simms timely appealed and presents the following questions for our review, which we have expanded for ease of discussion:1

1. Is this appeal permitted by law?

2. Is this appeal moot?

3. Whether a finding of dangerousness must be made to support a circuit court's finding that a hospital warrant should be issued for a person on conditional release, and whether a lack of such a finding be violative of due process?

As to the first question presented, we answer in the affirmative, and answer the second third questions in the negative. As to the third question, Ms. Simms makes two arguments but they are really two faces of the same coin. Her first argument is that dangerousness must be established anew during the hospital warrant phase, and second that it is a failure of due process not to do so. We must necessarily address the first argument before we address the second, as the negative

240 Md.App. 300

answer to the first, necessarily requires an answer of no merit to the second.


Ms. Simms has battled serious mental health issues since late 2014, when she first began experiencing visions and beliefs that people were knocking on her door with guns. In February 2015, her symptoms worsened, and she began to believe that people were trying to kill her. Around this time, Ms. Simms was evaluated at Southern Maryland Hospital Center ("SMHC"), where she would later be readmitted.

At SMHC, Ms. Simms espoused beliefs that she and her family members had been raped under hypnosis, and that both she and her son had been shot. Around that same time, she jumped out of a moving taxi with her son and threatened the taxi driver. She was diagnosed with a psychotic disorder and was discharged in March 2015.

In April 2015, Ms. Simms participated in an intake assessment at Regenerations Counseling Services where she complained of "stress" but was unable to identify the cause behind her stress. She was described as "guarded, paranoid, depressed, and irritable." Later that month, Ms. Simms met with a psychiatrist and stated a belief that people, including her boyfriend, were trying to kill her.

Ms. Simms' degrading mental health condition ended in tragedy. In May 2015, police found Ms. Simms pushing a swing holding the body of her deceased three-year-old son. Ms. Simms had reportedly pushed the child on the swing for forty straight hours. She was charged with Child Abuse Resulting in Death, Involuntary Manslaughter and Child Neglect on September 11, 2015.

In December 2015, Ms. Simms participated in a pretrial evaluation where she was considered competent to stand trial. Ultimately, she was found NCR based on evidence of experiencing auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, and paranoid delusions that made her feel unsafe. She also claimed that her sleep was impaired and voices told her to take her son to

240 Md.App. 301


203 A.3d 52

park. Once there, the voices told her that there was a battle in the park between heaven and hell, and that her son would remain safe in the swing.

Ms. Simms was readmitted at SMHC after her son's death. The reason for admission was listed as "psychosis." Ms. Simms was described as tearful and confused. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia, prescribed Haloperidol, Benztropine, and Mirtazapine, and was discharged at the end of the month. In August 2015, Ms. Simms met with a psychiatrist and endorsed "passive death wishes, stating, ‘Sometimes I wish I was dead.’ "

In February 2016, Ms. Simms entered an Alford plea2 to the charge of involuntary manslaughter. After reviewing reports from experts for both the State and the defense, the Circuit Court for Charles County found that, at the time of the criminal act, Ms. Simms had a mental disorder that caused her to lack the capacity to appreciate the criminality of her act and to conform her actions in accordance with the law. Subsequently, the circuit court found Ms. Simms NCR for the involuntary manslaughter of her son and determined that she would not be a danger to herself or the person or property of others, if released with conditions.

In March 2016, the circuit court issued an Order of Conditional Release for Ms. Simms, pursuant to CP §§ 3-111 and CP 3-112. Ms. Simms was conditionally released from commitment to the Department subject to the following conditions:

1. The Community Forensic Aftercare Program ("CFAP") of the [Department] shall be responsible for coordinating and monitoring the conditions of the defendant's release, including notification to all of the necessary parties that will be expected to provide services to [Ms. Simms]. [Ms.
240 Md.App. 302
Simms] shall comply with all lawful instructions, directions and recommendations given to her by CFAP.

2. [Ms. Simms] shall reside at [her address]. Any change in residence must be reported by [Ms. Simms] to and approved by CFAP prior to relocation.

3. [Ms. Simms] shall be seen for psychiatric follow-up with QCI Behavioral Health .... She will participate in individual therapy twice per week with a therapist identified by the agency. The patient will initially be seen monthly by the psychiatrist and twice per week by a therapist. Thereafter, any change in therapist, psychiatrist, clinic or frequency of appointments must be approved in writing by CFAP prior to any changes going into effect.

4. [Ms. Simms] shall attend and participate in any other program or activity as recommended and arranged by the therapist, psychiatrist or [the Department]. Ms. Simms shall follow all of their rules and requirements. This may include a day treatment or partial hospitalization program.

5. [Ms.] Simms will take medication as prescribed, and shall submit to periodic blood tests to confirm the presence or levels of medication if requested. Ms. Simms shall pay for said tests.

6. [Ms.] Simms shall not take illicit drugs including marijuana, or use alcohol. She will also not take the substance
203 A.3d 53
commonly referred to as "K2" or "Synthetic Marijuana." She shall submit to toxicology testing, urine, blood and breathalyzer testing upon request of her treatment team or CFAP monitor. She shall participate and complete an outpatient substance abuse program and provide documentation of completion of the program. In addition, Ms. Simms may be required to attend NA/AA if requested by her treatment team or CFAP monitor.

7. [Ms.] Simms shall not own, possess or use, or attempt to own, possess or use a firearm or weapon.

8. [Ms.] Simms shall not be in the company of any minor unless there is another adult present. [Ms.] Simms will not undertake to be the care giver of any minor.
240 Md.App. 303
9. [Ms.] Simms shall immediately discuss with her therapist or case manager and abide by any

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