Competency to Stand Trial

COMPETENCY TO STAND TRIAL

Competency to Stand Trial is most simply defined as the defendant’s ability to understand and participate in the court proceedings. Depending on the jurisdiction, Competency to Stand Trial may also be referred to as Competence To Stand Trial, Competence To Proceed, or Fitness to Proceed (juvenile court). Competency to Stand trial is necessary to ensure due process, provide equal treatment under the law, and maintain the dignity of legal proceedings. Competency issues may be raised by the defense, prosecution, or judge, as long as there is sufficient and bona fide evidence to raise the concerns. Some statutes even allow for jail medical/mental health staff to communicate with the court and report concerns regarding an inmate’s competency to stand trial.

Once the Judge has ordered a competency examination, a qualified mental health expert is assigned the case. Competency evaluations are conducted by doctoral level mental health professionals (i.e., Forensic psychologist (expert witness) or Forensic psychology or Psychiatrist) who have the training and experience required in the field.