Hide messageView More

Crisis Services

ASERT does not offer crisis services through our Resource Center. If you or someone you love is experiencing mental health distress or thoughts of suicide please call or text 988 for support.

Quick links: MyODP ASDNext AidInPA PhillyAP

Competency Evaluation

Cartoon rendering of a checklist.A person who is not competent to stand trial should not be convicted of a crime. In order to ensure that the criminal proceeding is fair, a court may order a mental health assessment or a competency evaluation be conducted. The request for an evaluation is arranged through the defense counsel and competency can be raised during any stage of legal proceedings by a judge, attorney, prison staff, etc. The trial process is put on hold while the competency evaluation is conducted.

Purpose of the Competency Evaluation/Assessment

To measure the defendant’s abilities to comprehend and participate in the judicial process, which include but are not limited to the defendant’s ability to:

  • Understand and process information.
  • Communicate sufficiently with defense counsel to assist in the defense.
  • Make informed decisions.
  • Understand the meaning of the charges and the potential consequences and repercussions of the outcomes.

Issues of Competency and Potential Pathways

Not Competent

  • Potential to have charges dismissed/withdrawn
  • Supervised release
  • Civil commitment – Mental Health Procedures Act
  • Could be a state hospital commitment (following request by defense counsel)


  • Charges continue and case goes to trial
  • Defense counsel could negotiate a deal
  • If convicted, advocacy through counsel
  • Advocate for what state programs and waivers can do for him/her
  • Could result in a lesser sentence
    Mental health treatment could be used in lieu of punishment

Competency Restoration Program

  • If an individual is deemed Incompetent to Stand Trial (IST), they will either be found IST and restorable or IST and not restorable.
  • For those deemed restorable, some type of Competency Restoration program will be ordered.

Points of Intervention

Though only the prosecutor, defense counsel, or court can bring forward a request to complete a Competency Evaluation/Assessment, a supporter can offer assistance to the defense counsel in the petition to evaluate competency by helping provide:

  • Relevant medical records
  • Psychosocial history
  • Police and law enforcement reports
  • Statements made by the defendant
  • Transcripts of hearings

For more information about justice system procedures, visit the ASERT Navigating the Justice System page.

Rate this resource

Thank you for rating this resource!

Download entire resource (pdf)