Mental Capacity and Criminal Trials in Los Angeles

by | Jul 28, 2015 | Criminal Defense
Los angeles criminal trials

Sometimes in a criminal case the defendant may not be able to participate knowingly and meaningfully in his/her own trial. This issue is commonly referred to as the competency to stand trial. If a defendant cannot rationally participate in his or her defense, the state of California does not force the defendant to stand trial.

Capacity to stand trial is a concept that is given important recognition within the court system as to ensure the constitutional right to a fair trial. If you are the family member or friend of a loved one charged with a crime in the Los Angeles area and you feel that the competency of the defendant is compromised, you should consult an attorney.

The Rodriguez Law Group has represented many defendants charged with various crimes. Competency to stand trial is an important concept to address immediately in a case. The attorneys at the Rodriguez Law Group have the experience and dedication to ensure a fair trial for their clients. Call the office today for a free consultation.

Competency to Stand Trial

A defendant is considered mentally incompetent to stand trial if he or she is unable to understand the nature of the criminal proceedings or is unable to assist the attorney in the defense. A defendant may be considered mentally incompetent due to a mental disease or a developmental disability.

The competency to stand trial is different than the defense of insanity. The insanity defense is asserted when the defendant alleges that he or she could not have formed the required mental state to commit the crime. If successful with an insanity defense, the defendant cannot be found guilty. However, if the defendant is found incompetent to stand trial they can still be found guilty of the crime later on. If a defendant is determined incompetent to stand trial, then the goal is to rehabilitate the defendant by giving him or her the necessary treatment so that eventually he or she will be competent to stand trial.

Court Procedure

California Penal Code 1368 describes the process used by the judge or jury in determining whether a defendant is competent to stand trial. This is handled in the form of a competency hearing once the competency of the defendant has been called into question. The competency hearing is not a criminal case, but rather a civil case. A licensed psychologist or psychiatrist is typically appointed for the purposes of determining the defendant’s capacity to stand trial.

The burden is on the defense to show that the defendant is not competent to stand trial because the presumption is that the defendant is competent. If the defendant is found incompetent, the criminal trial is suspended until the defendant undergoes treatment and regains his or her competence. The court will typically order psychological treatment either at a state mental hospital or sometimes an outpatient treatment facility. Wherever the defendant receives treatment the facility keeps the court updated on the defendant’s progress.

Once it is determined that the defendant has regained competency, the criminal trial resumes.  If found guilty of the criminal offense for which he or she is charged, the defendant will receive credit for any inpatient or outpatient treatment which will decrease any active sentence imposed.

To learn more, call our Los Angeles criminal defense law firm at 213-995-6767 or visit our contact us page to send us an email.