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Elements of Competency to Stand Trial

1 Feb

Dr. Joseph Frey, a psychologist in Augusta, GA, routinely performs forensic consultations to support court proceedings. Having practiced in Augusta, GA, since 2001, Dr Joseph Frey has assessed numerous individuals and determined their competency to stand trial.

In the legal system, competency to stand trial refers to a person’s mental state at the time that he or she would be the subject of legal proceedings. To be able to appear before a judge, a person must be able to understand the charges and must be capable of participating in their own defense. This means that he or she must be able to communicate with an attorney, process information that the attorney presents, and make decisions based on this information.

To determine whether a defendant’s mental illness or developmental challenges stands in the way of his or her competency, a psychologist will conduct an evaluation. The evaluation tests whether the defendant can recall and explain events, testify on his or her own behalf, and plan a defense based on a comprehension of possible penalties. If a defendant’s mental illness or developmental disabilities makes him or her incapable of any of these processes, the court may rule that the person is incompetent to stand trial. The court will frequently then order the defendant to undergo inpatient psychiatric treatment and request re-evaluation after several months.