competency to stand trial

Competency ensures that the criminal defendant can rationally assist in his or her own defense. In fact, the issue of competency can be raised at any point in the court process. Criminal Competencies. There is no “gold standard” instrument for measuring a defendant’s competency (Murrie & Zelle, 2015). (2012). competence, competence to waive right to counsel, etc.). That is, between 2% and 8% of all felony defendants are referred for evaluations of competency to stand trial each year. Dusky v United States. If someone does not … CST evaluations assess basic cognitive processes in relation to the defendant’s present psycholegal abilities such as understanding relevant information, appreciating the situation and its consequences, the ability to use logical thinking and reasoning, being motivated to assist counsel, and the ability to effectively formulate as well as communicate decisions (Murrie & Zelle, 2015). It should reference the court order underlying the evaluation and the statutory authority for the evaluation referenced She has conducted more than 2,500 forensic evaluations in both the United States and Canada and has served as an witness in a number of cases, including the competency hearing of Jose Padilla. Competency to Stand Trial Legal practice requires that defendants in criminal proceedings are competent to stand trial. In fact, competency to stand trial evaluations and subsequent treatment and adjudication require more financial resources than any other venture in forensic psychology (Zapf, Skeem & Golding, 2005). © 2021 MJH Life Sciences and Psychiatric Times. In addition to assessing the defendant’s psychiatric, medical, and social histories, the defendant’s competence as it relates to trial-related tasks is evaluated. Fuller DA, Sinclair E, Lamb Human Resources, et al. Trying a defendant who is unable to assist in their own defense would call into question the dignity of the proceedings and render the adversarial process unfair. Section 15: Competence to stand trial or criminal responsibility; examination; period of observation; reports; hearing; commitment; delinquents Section 15. Zapf, P., Skeem, J., and Golding, S. (2005). Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402 (1960), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court affirmed a defendant's right to have a competency evaluation before proceeding to trial. She served on National Judicial College’s Mental Competency—Best Practices Model panel of experts and travels throughout the United States and internationally to train legal and mental health professionals on best practices in forensic evaluation. As used in this section: (1) "Attorney for the state" means the attorney general, an authorized assistant attorney general, or other person as may be authorized by law to act as a representative of the state in a criminal proceeding; In the 1990s, Winick (1996) estimated that the cost of CST assessments and subsequent treatment in the United States was likely $370-$555 million per year. The ultimate decision regarding a defendant’s competence rests with the court, which is not bound by the evaluator’s opinion. Poythress NG, Bonnie RJ, Hoge SK, et al. Click to view or save a PDF of this article. Restructuring competency to stand trial. Taylor & Francis; 2017. It is good practice for the evaluator to speak with both the defense and prosecution attorneys to have the best understanding of why the issue of competence was raised. This would violate constitutional protections for defendants by denying them the right to a fair trial. There has been a surge in CST evaluation requests in recent years, with current estimates of 160,000 or more evaluation requests annually.2,3 This increase may be due to the criminalization of mental illness, substance abuse, and intellectual disability, all of which often stem from the lack of adequate access to civil treatment in the community. Psychiatrists and psychologists assist courts by evaluating defendants’ CST and, when necessary, providing treatment to restore competency in defendants initially found to be incompetent to stand trial (IST). It is important that evaluators appropriately assess a defendant’s mental status in relation to the functional abilities that are relevant to the particular defendant’s legal case. Trial competence protects the defendant's right to present a defense as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment and serves to maintain fairness in, and the dignity of, the court. 10. Law Hum Behav. The aim of this review was to determine which variables were associated with a defendant’s competency to stand trial. 281-314). All of these questions contain core elements that are helpful in the evaluation and adjudication of a defendant’s competence. 5. Emptying the “New Asylums”: A Beds Capacity Model to Reduce Mental illness Behind Bars. Although not designed to assess competency to stand trial, several instruments developed to measure specific psychological constructs including intelligence (e.g., Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scales) and psychopathology (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) are commonly used in competency evaluations (Pirelli, Gottdiener, & Zapf, 2011). He was not a high school graduate; he dropped out in the middle of tenth grade as he no longer wanted to go to school. Competency to stand trial evaluations are among the most common forensic evaluation referrals in criminal and juvenile courts nationwide. Once detained, he is restarted on treatment. Historically, competency was equated with psychosis; however, research has since provided evidence that the presence of psychosis itself is not sufficient for a defendant to be adjudicated incompetent (Zapf et al., 2014). Principles and Practice of Forensic Psychiatry, 3rd ed. (2015). Therefore, while the law student has a factual understanding of the case (such as case travel, various pleas, etc), the law student’s ability to apply the information to her own case would be impaired, as she does not have a rational understanding of the situation. Because there are a variety of reasons why a person could have dubious competency to stand trial, the retaining attorney or judge should specify the basis for the forensic psychiatric expert referral. He is also a clinical professor at Brown University and provides expert witness consultations for medical-legal purposes. Tony further explains he would prefer to admit to some form of guilt to be quickly paroled so that he can see his newborn child. Competency means that an accused must understand the nature of the court process. States have been sued for being unable to admit IST defendants for CR services in a timely fashion. Some examples include the Competency Assessment Instrument (CAI), the Georgia Court Competence Test (GCCT), and the Competence Assessment for Standing Trial for Defendants with Mental Retardation (CAST-MR).8. Client abilities to assist counsel and make decisions in criminal cases: findings from three studies. In D. B. Wexler & B. J. Winick (Eds. Factor structure and validity of the MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool – Criminal Adjudication. If the judge determines a defendant is IST, the CR process begins, typically in the form of both treatment of the defendant’s mental illness and competency education (Figure). Over the past 40 years, no fewer than 12 competency assessment instruments have been developed to address a defendant’s psycholegal abilities (Pirelli et al., 2011). In the decades since Winick’s estimates (1985, 1996), the annual cost of CST assessments and subsequent treatment has likely ballooned (Pirelli, Gottdiener, & Zapf, 2011). contextual/functional approach an interpretation of forensic assessments in light of specific demands of the particular legal case or issue Concordia University, St. Paul Base rates of incompetency vary by jurisdiction and setting, but approximately 20% of referred defendants are opined incompetent to stand trial (IST). If a defendant is found to be competent to stand trial, then the criminal proceedings will move forward. John was recommended as CST, which was accepted by the court. This evaluation aims to provide sufficient information to allow a judge to rule on the competency of the defendant should a motion to that effect be made by either the prosecutor or defense attorney. Nonetheless, a defendant with schizophrenia can be competent and, similarly, a defendant with intellectual disability can be competent. This includes assessing an understanding of the charges and their potential consequences, an understanding of the trial process, knowledge about the various participants in a trial, and whether the defendant has the ability to help in their own defense and make decisions about their case.7,8. He has never served time, as he always managed to get probation. Dr. Zapf is on the Board of Directors for the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Services and is the Past President for the American Psychology-Law Society (AP-LS; Division 41, APA). This includes a grasp of the charges and parties involved. Psychiatric variables typically show the most significant differences between those adjudicated competent and those adjudicated incompetent. 2016;22:293-305. 9. The legal system in the United States requires that criminal defendants be competent to stand trial. A defendant's competence to stand trial can come up at any point during the proceedings, before sentencing. If they are in a state hospital for competency restoration, they will be discharged to the county jail and will be held there during the trial. However, given his history of mental illness and his bizarre behavior at the time of the arrest, a CST evaluation was ordered. © 2021 MJH Life Sciences™ and Psychiatric Times. A defendant’s right to a fair trial is one of the core principles of the United States’ criminal justice system, which strives to provide all defendants with objective and dignified proceedings (Pirelli, Gottdiener, & Zapf, 2011). Federal and state laws require that a defendant must be competent in order to stand trial for a criminal charge. 8. Incompetency to proceed in the criminal process: Past, present, and future. This, paired with the level of ambiguity in the definition of competency, further complicates the evaluation process. Licensed clinical social worker Vivian Carr testified that she was on a three-member panel that examined Elder to determine her competency to stand trial. (1985). Current research indicates that this number has been steadily increasing over time (Zapf, Roesch, & Pirelli, 2014). What is the process for conducting such an evaluation? AAPL practice resource for the forensic psychiatric evaluation of competence to stand trial. 7. Uniform Crime Report: Crime in the United States, 2018. After an evaluation, including a clinical evaluation and the CAST-MR, it is clear that he has an understanding of the charges and their potential consequences. After an evaluation, including a clinical evaluation and the CAST-MR, it is clear that he has an understanding of the charges and their potential consequences. Adjudicative competence, or competence to stand trial, is a legal construct that usually refers to a crim- inal defendant’s ability to participate in legal pro- ceedings related to an alleged offense. Noffsinger SG, Resnick PJ. Competency to stand trial is especially important to evidence-based forensic practice because of its prevalence; it represents the most common pretrial focal point within the criminal domain of forensic psychiatry. Gowensmith WN. While these formalized checklists and structured interviews can assist evaluators with competency assessments, they do not replace a thorough clinical evaluation. Although there are no diagnoses that equal IST, psychosis and intellectual disability are the 2 most common clinical reasons that defendants are found incompetent to stand trial. Resolution or resignation: the role of forensic mental health professionals amidst the competency services crisis. Lookin’ for beds in all the wrong places: outpatient competence restoration as a promising approach to modern challenges. If the defense and prosecution attorneys do not accept the opinion of the evaluator, a brief hearing may be held wherein the evaluator is asked to testify; however, this is rarely the case. Mental status and formal psychiatric diagnoses are important competency considerations but, independent from the facts of the legal case, they are not sufficient for rendering an opinion regarding competence (Zapf et al., 2014). Assessments of competency to stand trial concentrate on several issues including mental and physical health, comprehension of legal proceedings, and capacity to communicate with legal counsel (Chauhan, Warren, Kois & Wellbeloved-Stone, 2015). Psycholegal abilities and restoration of competence to stand trial. Sources estimate that the question of a criminal defendant’s competency to stand trial is raised in about 10% to 15% of felony cases and that approximately 60,000 defendants are referred annually for competency evaluations (Hope, 2016). In B. L. Cutler, P. A. Zapf, B. L. Cutler, P. A. Zapf (Eds.). A CST evaluation is first and foremost a clinical evaluation. She is viewing the situation through a psychotic process. To understand the proceedings, a defendant must be able to comprehend the charges against him and the penalties if convicted. Multiple evaluators could agree that the presence of psychosis automatically signifies that a defendant is incompetent, yet previous research has underscored that this is an invalid conclusion (Zapf et al., 2014). To illustrate this point further, in the 1980s, Winick (1985) calculated that CST assessments and subsequent treatment cost over $185 million in the United States per year. Consider the following case example. J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. (2011). ; pp. SPECIAL REPORT: FORENSIC PSYCHIATRY, PART II, The United States legal system has long recognized that criminal defendants must be competent to stand trial (CST) prior to proceeding with the legal process to allow for fairness for the accused and protect the integrity of the justice system. In comparison to defendants who were opined competent, incompetent defendants are typically older, predominantly non-white, unmarried, and have a higher rate of unemployment. 2020;71(7):691-697. It is the most commonly conducted criminal forensic evaluation in the United States. Download Insanity Defense Competency To Stand Trial full book in PDF, EPUB, and Mobi Format, get it for read on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Wall BW, Ash P, Keram E, Pinals DA, Thompson CH. “John,” a 35-year-old man with a history of schizoaffective disorder, is arrested; he has been treatment nonadherent for several months. Jerrod Brown, M.A., M.S., M.S., M.S., is the Treatment Director for Pathways Counseling Center, Inc. Privacy Policy | Vitacco, M., Rogers, R., Gabel, J., and Munizza, J. Competency to stand trial. 1282 Concordia Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55104 A clear, concise, easy to read guide for anyone who needs to understand competency to stand trial. These instruments range from informal checklists to structured instruments with criterion-based scoring and have minimized the need for lengthy inpatient evaluations. Fall 2019. New York, NY: Oxford. Pathways provides programs and services benefiting individuals impacted by mental illness and addictions. He tells you that he is interested in accepting a deal, because it will allow him to avoid going to jail. Additionally, CST trial is moment specific. 77-111). Fundamental justice requires that criminal defendants should be able to understand the charges against them, appreciate the nature and range of penalties, and communicate with their attorney. I. A review was done that quantitatively analyzed thirty different studies which compared competent and incompetent criminal defendants. However, once he stopped taking his medications in jail, he became psychotic, refused to work collaboratively with his attorney, and believed the legal system was conspiring against him. But across the country, this process has become increasingly overburdened and delayed, causing people to languish in jail while states contend with the high associated costs. The competency evaluation of a defendant’s ability to She has published eight books and manuals and more than 85 articles and chapters, mainly on the assessment and conceptualization of criminal competencies. The police arrive as she is being arrested—she was trying to take a backpack from a passerby, believing a bomb to be inside. Competency to Stand Trial A defendant cannot be convicted of a crime if they are not mentally competent to stand trial. Competent to Stand Trial Law and Legal Definition Due process requires that a defendant be competent to stand trial, which includes capacity to assist counsel and to understand the nature of the proceeding sufficiently to participate in and make decisions about rights afforded to defendants. He, therefore, had an understanding of his charges and potential consequences. It is common practice that when the issue of competency is raised, a forensic evaluation is subsequently conducted. In determining whether the defendant is competent to stand trial, the court must determine "whether [the defendant] has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding -- and whether he has a rational as well as factual understanding of … Therefore, a defendant could be initially recommended as CST and later, as the case progresses, may become IST. By extrapolation, if the criminal court judge ordered a CST evaluation, she would likely be recommended to the court as IST because she was unable to work with her attorney in civil court due to mental illness symptoms. If someone is competent to stand trial, it means that he or she understands the purpose and nature of the proceedings and can assist the defense. The defendant had repeated exposure to the system, giving him a lot of practical experience. Once an evaluator completes a competency evaluation, a written report is submitted to the court. She is the Editor of the American Psychology-Law Society book series; Associate Editor of Law and Human Behavior; and is on the Editorial Boards of five journals in psychology and law. Most courts, however, accept the opinion or recommendation of the evaluator, resulting in very high levels of examiner-judge agreement (Zapf et al., 2014). At that point, if a second evaluation were ordered, he would likely be found IST and remanded for CR services. By law, a defendant in a criminal trial may not be tried, convicted or sentenced while he or she is not competent (i.e., if he or she is unable to understand the proceedings against him or her or assist in his or her own defense). Kluwer Academic/ Plenum Studies; 2002. Jerrod is also the founder and CEO of the American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies (AIAFS) and lead developer and program director of an online graduate degree program in Forensic Mental Health from Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota. Competency to Stand Trial * Assessment Template This template is designed to be used as a template for completing an evaluation of a . Morris, D. R., & DeYoung, N. J. On a particularly bad day, Jodi calls the police for backup, as she believes that people are walking around downtown with bombs in backpacks. However, as months passed, the defendant started having difficulty sleeping and became increasingly paranoid. Department of Justice, FBI. She is well versed in the requirements that are needed for involuntary medication, and she insists on cross examining the psychiatrist, despite the judge advising her to defer to her attorney. Competency to stand trial is a standard which must be met if someone is to stand trial. Competency to stand trial is generally determined via a pretrial evaluation of the defendant's overall mental status and mental state at the time of the examination. This is known as “competence.” When a defendant’s mental state restricts the person from understanding or comprehending the charges in their case, the court deems them incompetent to stand trial. Poythress N, Bonnie R, Monahan J, Otto R. Adjudicative Competence: The MacArthur Studies. It is essential to know what a competency evaluation entails, because this information is directly relevant to the psycholegal assessment questions on the comprehensive exam. Evaluators are further advised to obtain all evidence being offered and the dispositional alternatives that are being considered for the defendant. To illustrate how critical the clinical evaluation is in CST evaluations, and that a clinical evaluation cannot be replaced by a competency assessment instrument, consider the following case. Financial costs associated with competency to stand trial evaluations are vast and increasing every year. Winick, B. J. The low base rate of defendants adjudicated IST has been highlighted in defining the standards of practice in the competency arena (Pirelli, Gottdiener, & Zapf, 2011). Pirelli, G., Gottdiener, W. H., & Zapf, P. A. What are the most frequent criminal competency evaluations forensic psychologists conduct? Competency involves being able to understand the proceedings and play a role in their defense. The term competence restoration (CR) is used to describe the treatment and education process used to transform the defendants classified as IST to CST (Table 1).1, CST, therefore, is a legal decision made by a judge that determines if a criminal defendant is able to proceed with the legal process. Chauhan, P., Warren, J., Kois, L., & Wellbeloved-Stone, J. He successfully worked with his attorney on several other misdemeanors, both in family court as a juvenile and in the criminal court system as an adult. Competency to stand trial. Terms and Conditions, American Institute for the Advancement of Forensic Studies, Forensic Mental Health from Concordia University. However, in undergoing a thorough CST evaluation, the evaluator would realize that the defendant is paranoid and likely unable to assist in her own defense despite having a strong factual base of knowledge. A meta-analytic review of competency to stand trial research. Issues of competency may be raised at any point during the proceedings and, if a bona fide doubt exists regarding competency, the issue must be formally considered, thus requiring a forensic evaluation. Patricia A. Zapf obtained her Ph.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology from Simon Fraser University in Canada and currently holds the position of Professor in the Department of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, The City University of New York. Competency to stand trial is legally unrelated to the defendant’s mental state at the time of the alleged crime. B. Weiner & R. K. Otto (Eds. This title provides a review of the most fundamental concepts and methods for performing these evaluations. Plus, as a result of years of experience in the court system, Tony also has a good handle on the trial process. Zapf, P. A., Roesch, R., & Pirelli, G. (2014). Dr. Zapf is the author of Best Practices in Forensic Mental Health Assessment: Evaluation of Competency to Stand Trial; editor of Forensic Assessments in Criminal and Civil Law: A Handbook for Lawyers; and Editor-in-Chief of the recently published APA Handbook of Forensic Psychology. In addition to her research, she serves as consultant to various criminal justice and policy organizations and has a private practice in forensic assessment. Winick, B. J. Unlike the insanity defense—which only applies to the moment the crime was committed—the defendant’s mental capacity to participate in the trial is an ongoing issue. Concordia University, St. Paul is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association. Defendants who are deemed IST are more likely to have previous psychiatric hospitalizations and current diagnoses on the psychotic spectrum than defendants found CST (Pirelli et al., 2011). When the court determines an individual is incompetent to stand trial, the law dictates that the individual can’t be … An overview of competency tools is beyond the scope of this brief article; however, interested readers are referred to additional sources (Pirelli et al., 2011; Zapf & Roesch, 2009; Zapf, Roesch, & Pirelli, 2014). “Tony” is a 25-year-old man who has been in and out of the legal system since he was a teenager. 1994;18:437-452. Assessing competency to stand trial. Best practices in forensic mental health assessment: Evaluation of competence to stand trial. P: 1.855.641.2525 | E: onlineinfo@csp.edu, Copyright 2020 Concordia University St. Paul | All rights reserved. Competency to Stand Trial or Fitness to Stand Trial requires that a defendant understands the nature and purpose of the legal proceedings against him and be able to effectively cooperate with counsel in his defense. There are multiple competency assessment instruments that supplement clinical evaluations (Table 2). This requires that all defendants maintain a basic level of competence to proceed (Murrie & Zelle, 2015). This has resulted in wait lists for competency-related services for jail detainees. Some of the more popular screening tools used b… chapter 123 § 15(b). Competency to stand trial is the most common type of criminal forensic evaluation, with approximately 60,000 evaluations conducted annually in the United States. This case illustrates that an intellectual disability does not automatically equate with incompetence. New York: Wiley. The following people may raise the incompetency issue: Tony violates a no contact order, and because of his history of intellectual disability, his competency to stand trial is questioned. The Court outlined the basic standards for determining competency. Concordia University, St. Paul has been accredited since 1967, with reaccreditation given in 2018. defendant’s competency to stand trial. Nussbaum, D., Hancock, M., Turner, I., Arrowood, J., and Melodick, S. (2008). In: Rosner R and CL Scott, eds. Insanity Defense Competency To Stand Trial … In contrast, a criminal responsibility evaluation determines the mental state of the defendant at certain point in the past, specifically at the time of the alleged criminal incident. However, it is expected that the evaluator will use his or her clinical judgment based upon the defendant’s presentation in determining how to conduct the evaluation. The competency to stand trial process is designed to protect the rights of people who do not understand the charges against them and are unable to assist in their own defense. (1996). What does the population of individuals look like who undergo these evaluations? Dr Lee is clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown University, and is the assistant program director of the Forensic Psychiatry Fellowship and assistant director of the forensic service at Slater Hospital, Rhode Island’s only state hospital. 2. This defendant would also be recommended as IST, despite her in-depth knowledge of the law, as she was unable to comport her behavior appropriately in the civil mental health court. Because trial competency issues are raised substantially more often than the insanity defense, 4. Dr. Zapf was appointed Fellow of the American Psychological Association and Distinguished Member of the American Psychology-Law Society in 2006 for outstanding contributions to the field of law and psychology for her work in competency evaluation. In such a case, a law student who is knowledgeable about the legal system would do well on scoring instruments. ), The handbook of forensic psychology (4th ed. 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