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Defendants With Mental Disorders

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If a defendant in a criminal case appears to be afflicted with a mental illness during a trial, the court may order him to be tested for competency. The request for testing can be made by a judge, a prosecutor or even the defense. If the defendant cannot communicate with his legal counsel or comprehend the charges that are against him, a faction of the court will most likely request a test of mental competency.

The Competency Process

Each state has guidelines that help determine whether a defendant is competent to stand trial. In the process to determine a defendant’s competency, the question of mental stability begins with doubts raised by a judge or attorney. When this occurs, the court orders a mental evaluation of the defendant. Upon examination by a mental health expert, the defendant returns to court if he is deemed healthy. Otherwise, he is found to be incompetent and sent to a mental health facility for restorative services. While he is receiving treatment, the defendant’s condition is closely monitored. When his competency is restored, the defendant goes back to court to stand trial.

Determining Competency to Stand Trial

A defendant who is in the care of a mental health facility must demonstrate that he understands the charges against him to be deemed as competent for trial. The accused individual must demonstrate the ability to contribute to his defense before he is released to the court for trial.

There are several behaviors that demonstrate an accused person’s incompetency to stand trial. Any defendant who exhibits irrational behavior or problematic conduct while under evaluation will be deemed incompetent.

Reversing and Dismissing Convictions

If a defendant is convicted with unaddressed competency issues, state law allows for the conviction to be reversed. Because the defendant may have been incompetent in his own defense, he might have been denied a fair trial. Additionally, if an expert evaluates a defendant and determines that his mental capacity has little or no chance of improvement in the near future, the allegations against him may be dismissed. However, the defendant is not released. Rather, he is admitted to a psychiatric institution for further monitoring and treatment.

To talk to Brett Podolsky about competency to stand trial, call 713-227-0087.

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Law Office of Brett A. Podolsky
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Houston, TX 77002