You may have heard the phrase "competent to stand trial" in the past, but do you know what it means? Competency refers to an individual's ability to understand the trial and the consequences of being convicted of a crime.
In a criminal case, the court must consider the defendant competent to stand trial. The defendant must show an understanding of the case and be able to communicate with legal counsel. If they cannot do this, the court may not charge them.
Do you still have questions about competency in the criminal courts? Read on to understand this approach to defense.
Proving Competency for Trial
The court determines an individual's competency to stand trial by holding a psychiatric evaluation. A certified evaluator performs the examination and writes a report with the determination. This examination may also come as part of a 30-day stay in an Oregon mental hospital or similar facility.
Minors may also face competency evaluations. Individuals under 18 will undergo these hearings at secure community inpatient facilities.
Defendants may not be competent to stand trial if they do not seem to understand the nature of the trial, cannot cooperate, or are unable to take part in their own defense.
Dealing With the Effects of Competency Evaluations
Defendants should keep in mind that having a mental disorder does not mean that an individual is incompetent or incapacitated. Individuals with mental illness may still be fit to proceed with the case.
Additionally, keep in mind that incompetency can be temporary. The evaluator may recommend services and treatments that can help the individual be able to face trial. The amount of time this takes depends on the circumstances and could take weeks or years.
The court also has the final decision in matters of competency. Simply because an evaluator deems an individual incompetent to stand trial does not mean that the judge will agree.
Understanding the Consequences of Incompetency
While many people appreciate being able to plead incompetency, the situation can become more complex. Incompetency does not mean that the trial goes away. It simply postpones the case.
Additionally, faking incompetency comes with its own set of consequences. Attorneys assess the risks of incompetency before advising your loved one to request an incompetency hearing.
People often do not realize that claiming incompetency is not a trial defense like pleading insanity. Rather, incompetency refers to the individual's state of mind during the trial rather than during the criminal act.
Misconceptions about Incompetency
Competency is a complicated issue that revolves around comprehension. Many people mistakenly believe that you can be deemed incompetent based on intelligence, education, and communication difficulties.
Instead, the court is concerned that the individual is able to understand where they are, make decisions based on information, and have a basic understanding of the law. The individual does not necessarily need to understand the details of the case on a deep level.
Defending Your Loved One's Rights in Court
When somebody you know faces legal charges, you undergo a tremendous amount of stress. Your loved one has the right to understand the charges against them, and you have the right to identify situations in which your loved one is not being treated fairly.
The court may try to move forward with a case even if an individual is incapacitated. Your loved one needs legal counsel to challenge decisions that could impact them for the rest of their life.
Mark J. Geiger, Attorney at Law, offers legal representation when you need it most. If your loved one requires legal counsel, you have the right to hire an attorney. Call today to discuss your options.