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Competency Evaluation

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  • Potential to have charges dismissed/withdrawn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)

Competent

  • 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.

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