The Penal Code §1368 is a statute in California state that sets forth the guidelines for determining if a defendant has the mental ability to stand trial. The law indicates that if a judge believes that a defendant is not mentally competent to stand trial, they should state the belief on record. Therefore, if the accused is deemed mentally incompetent, they are then considered unfit to stand trial.
The judge may also order a hearing to determine if the accused is, without doubt, mentally incompetent. During the hearing, the defense counsel is also given a chance to provide evidence of incompetency and cannot withdraw their questions about their client’s competency after they have given it. This forms part of the consideration for determining if a competency hearing is required.
This statute complies with the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution on matters of mental competence. This amendment guarantees that everyone charged with a crime, whether a felony or a misdemeanor, will be subjected to a fair trial. Therefore, if the accused is deemed mentally incompetent, they are then considered unfit to stand trial.
Characteristics of a Defendant that Can Stand Trial
In order for a Defendant to be declared competent to stand trial, he or she must:
- Understand their status in the criminal prosecution process
- Understand the nature of the criminal proceedings against them and the purpose they serve
- Be able to assist the attorney in presenting a defense
After the judge completes a hearing to determine mental competency, they can suspend the criminal proceedings if they find the accused mentally incompetent to stand trial or allow the proceedings to continue if they find the defendant mentally competent.
How Is Competency Determined During the Hearing?
During the competency hearing, the judge rules on the defendant’s mental health. The judge may direct them to be taken to a state mental hospital or any other treatment facility and undergo a 72-hour evaluation and treatment.
After the evaluation, the facility provides a report that details the defendant’s mental competence to the judge. The judge will look at the competency report along with any other pertinent evidence, such as the defense counsel’s statements, to determine whether or not the accused is ready to stand trial.
During competency hearings, the defense has the burden of proving that, indeed, the defendant does not have the mental capacity to stand trial. However, the defense does not have to prove that the accused is incompetent beyond a reasonable doubt.
The court just requires the defense to prove mental incompetence with just a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the judge is left to decide if the defendant is more likely than not to be mentally incompetent.
Is the Competency Hearing Civil or Criminal in Nature?
A competency hearing is civil in nature. The outcome of the hearing is not in any way used in the main trial that is facing the accused person. Besides, there is no proof of guilt or innocence in the issue at hand.
However, counsel must support a position that is in the best interests of their client. This holds even if the position conflicts with the client’s position.
The accused needs a competent lawyer who understands the dynamics of competency hearings. The Los Angeles DUI Attorney has the competency and experience to defend a position that is in the best interests of their client.
What Is Mental Incompetency?
A mentally incompetent defendant suffers from a mental disorder or a developmental disability that makes them unable to understand the nature of criminal proceedings leveled against them or unable to assist their counsel in conducting the defense in a rational manner. The law defines a developmental disability as beginning before the accused is 18 years old and continuing indefinitely.
What Happens When the Judge Finds the Accused Mentally Incompetent?
If the judge finds the defendant to be mentally incompetent, they will temporarily suspend the criminal proceedings or trial. The defendant will then be required to undergo psychiatric treatment by a licensed psychologist. Depending on the nature of the mental disability, the judge may commit the defendant to any of the following:
- A state mental hospital
- A center that cares for or treats people with developmental disabilities.
- Any state-approved treatment facility
How Long does the Defendant Get Mental Treatment?
The length of treatment is usually four months before the court can determine if the accused has regained competency. If the condition has not improved yet, the court may grant reasonable additional time until the medical condition improves. Alternatively, if the judge finds that the defendant is competent enough to stand trial, the criminal proceedings would continue.
Diversions for Mentally Incompetent Defenders
If the court finds that the accused is mentally incompetent, it may consider a diversion before being transported to a medical facility. It does this by setting up a hearing to determine if the accused is appropriate for diversion. The maximum diversion period after the accused is incompetent is two years or the maximum period for restoration, whichever is less. It may also consider past participation in similar programs.
However, the court may not condition the diversion if the defendant consents to the diversion, either in person or through counsel, or waives their right to a speedy trial through counsel or personal.
The constitution envisages a speedy and fair trial where all the parties understand the nature and material facts of the case at hand. A competency hearing ascertains whether the accused is mentally competent to stand trial during the proceedings. The input of the defendant’s counsel is key in determining competency. This is why it is important to pick a competent lawyer for the task.
Contact an Attorney for Help Today
Los Angeles DUI Lawyer is familiar with the complexities of determining mental competence and the requirements for diversion in California. They have handled numerous cases in the past and know what to expect in a similar proceeding. Defend your right to a fair hearing by contacting us for help. Somebody will be at hand to listen to your problem and provide directions.