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Competency To Stand Trial

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One of the constitutional rights that a person has when charged with a crime is the right not to be tried unless the person is fit for trial. Being fit for trial or competent to stand trial deals with a person’s ability to assist with his defense as well as understand the criminal proceedings he is facing. If there is evidence that a person is not competent to stand trial, then the case cannot go forward until the person is deemed competent.

Understanding the nature of the proceedings means that, among other things, the person must understand the charges against him and the penalties faced. For a person to assist with his defense, he must be able to tell his attorney relevant facts that may assist with his defense, as well as reveal any pertinent witnesses, and testify if necessary.

The question of competence to stand trial may be raised at any time pre-trial or during a person’s trial. The judge may order an evaluation of a defendant by a psychologist or psychiatrist if there is a doubt as to a person’s competency to proceed with a trial. If the psychologist or psychiatrist finds that the person is not competent to proceed with trial, it does not mean that the person is released and can no longer be tried. If there is a finding of incompetency, the court generally orders treatment in a facility and a reevaluation at a later date.

Competence for purposes of trial is a different question than trying to figure out if a person was insane or suffering from a mental illness at the time of the crime, as may be necessary if a person is raising an insanity defense. Even when a person was mentally ill at the time of the offense, he can be found competent to stand trial when the proceedings start. This may be because the person has been taking medicine to treat a mental illness, or because the mental break at the time of the crime was temporary.

If a person is only found to be competent because he is taking psychotropic medication, it does not mean that the court has to find the person incompetent to stand trial. If a person can be restored to competency by taking certain medication as prescribed by a doctor, a court may require that the person continues taking the necessary medication in order to stand trial.

Lack of competency to stand trial cannot be waived or used as a defense. Without the defendant being competent to stand trial, the trial simply does not go on.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a crime, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your possible defenses. If your loved one is charged with a criminal offense and you are concerned about their mental health and ability to assist with their defense, you should contact an experienced attorney for more information. Contact the experienced criminal defense attorney at Scott Berry Law for a free consultation today.

Resource:

leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0900-0999/0916/Sections/0916.12.html

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