How to Appoint an Expert from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities

Chapter 916 of the Florida Statutes is the statutory authority for the courts to appoint the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) to evaluate for intellectual disability or autism. The statute states two experts shall be appointed to evaluate the defendant to determine the following: (1) if they have an intellectual disability or autism; and (2) if they meet the criteria for intellectual disability or autism, then an evaluation for competence to proceed is completed.

In other words, the doctors are to first evaluate the defendant to see if the defendant meets the criteria for an intellectual disability or autism. The first expert appointed is a court expert. If the defendant meets the definition of intellectual disability or autism, then the expert determines whether the defendant is competent to proceed. If Defendant does not meet the criteria, then according to the statute there is no need to determine competence to proceed. The expert must be on the 12h Circuit’s list of approved expert witnesses and Court Administration pays for this exam.

The court expert you appoint must be under contract with 12th Circuit Court Administration. The 12th Circuit currently has four experts under contract to do these evaluations – Dr. DeClue (intellectual disability only); Dr. Kasper; Dr. O’Neal and Dr. Visser. If you appoint an expert who is not on our list, you are responsible for paying the bill, not us.

The second expert appointed is a psychologist approved by APD to do these exams. The purpose of appointing APD is to essentially rule out the possibility that the defendant has an intellectual disability which may be a contributing factor to their inability to comprehend the judicial process. The Court pays for this exam if the defendant is an adult, but APD pays for this exam if the defendant is a juvenile. Currently the 12th Circuit only has one doctor on APD’s list of approved psychologists, Dr. Henry Tenenbaum. We recently learned that another local psychologist, Dr. Karim Yamout, recently applied to APD to be an approved psychologist, but he is still going through the approval process and should not be appointed yet.

The problem in our circuit appears to be twofold: (1) we only have one local expert on APD’s approved list; and (2) he is on vacation the entire month of May 2017. If you appoint Dr. Tenenbaum, be advised that the exam will not occur until sometime in June 2017 or later.

The Court Administrator,Walt Smith, spoke with the APD Forensic Unit Supervisor, Teshia Houston, who indicated that there may be APD–approved doctors from Pinellas and/or Hillsborough who will travel to Manatee or Sarasota to perform an APD exam. Before appointing any of them you must contact APD with specific information about the defendant’s location so that APD may inquire with those doctors about whether they will accept the case. If your defendant is an adult, then the court is paying for the APD exam, so the expert must also be under contract with the 12th Circuit. Before you use an APD-approved doctor from another circuit, please be sure that the doctor agrees to be under contract with us at our rate of $500 per exam, including interviews, records review, report preparation and testimony. We will pay mileage to/from their office location to the defendant. The APD-approved doctor must contact Linda Pluta (Phone: 941-861-7814) for a 12th Circuit contract. If your defendant is a juvenile, APD pays for the exam so the doctor does NOT have to be under contract with the 12th Circuit.

When you appoint APD to a case, you must put the appointed doctor’s name in the order, not just “APD”. You then send the order and all required supporting documents to APD so the Agency can create a case file and send it to the doctor appointed to evaluate the defendant. Orders and supporting documents can be emailed to Teshia Houston at APD (her complete contact information is in the following section). The supporting documents should include:

  • Petition for all charges on court order
  • Criminal Report affidavit/ PCA
  • Felony Information
  • Police Reports
  • Location and contact information for the defendant
  • School Records, if available
APD Contact Information

Teshia Houston, Forensic Unit Supervisor
Suncoast Region Agency for Persons With Disabilities
1313 N Tampa St. Ste. 515
Tampa, FL 33602
(813) 233-4337

If you have any questions about appointing APD, please contact Teshia Houston directly. She has been very responsive to our questions and is working hard to try resolve the recent confusion about appointing APD.