Competency to Stand Trial

 

Competency to Stand Trial pic

Competency to Stand Trial
Image: psychlawjournal.com

As a privately practicing psychologist in Augusta, GA, Joseph Frey works closely with courts to provide forensic consultations and psychological assessments. On a number of occasions, Joseph Frey of Augusta, GA, has evaluated defendants to determine their competency to stand trial.

The court system considers an individual competent to stand trial if he or she can understand the proceedings and assist in his or her own defense. If a reasonable question exists as to the defendant’s ability to do so, he or she may undergo a psychological evaluation.

An evaluation serves to determine whether or not the person can process information about the case, the charges, and the potential penalties and make informed decisions. Understanding does not need to be on a complex level, nor is it tied to the defendant’s ability to comprehend the language of the court. Legally, competency is present as long as the defendant can show that he or she can take in information related to the trial.

It is important to remember that a finding of competency or incompetency refers to the defendant’s mental state at the time of the trial. If a defendant was experiencing the effects of mental illness at the time of the alleged crime but symptoms have come under control, that individual may be competent to stand trial. Furthermore, if an evaluation determines the presence of mental illness that does not affect the defendant’s ability to comprehend the trial, the diagnosis does not translate to incompetency unless other significant factors are present.

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Elements of Competency to Stand Trial

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.