Competency to Stand Trial

Dusky vs. United States U.S. 362 U.S. 402 (1960)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that competency to stand trial includes, “Whether a 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 the proceedings against him.”

Federal Competency Standard U.S.C. § 4241(a)

If there is reasonable cause to believe that the defendant may presently be suffering from a mental disease or defect rendering him mentally incompetent to the extent that he is unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him or to assist properly in his defense.

Understanding & Appreciating

  • To understand the current legal situation.
  • To understand the nature and severity of the current charges.
  • To understand range/nature of possible penalties.
  • To understand criminal procedure.
  • To understand potential legal defenses.
  • To understand the possible dispositions, pleas, and penalties.
  • To appraise the likely outcome.
  • To appraise the roles of the defense counsel, prosecutor, judge, jury, witnesses and defendant.
  • To identify witnesses.
  • Appraisal of available legal defenses.
  • Appraisal of likely outcome.
  • Capacity to understand the adversary nature of the court proceedings.
  • Capacity to understand the nature and consequences of a plea bargain.
  • Comprehending the implications of proceeding pro se.

Decision Making & Assisting

  • To comprehend instructions and advice.
  • To make reasoned decisions and identify alternative courses of action after receiving legal advice.
  • To maintain a collaborative relationship with counsel and help plan legal strategy.
  • To trust counsel.
  • To follow testimony for contradictions or errors.
  • To testify relevantly and be cross examined if necessary.
  • To challenge prosecution witnesses.
  • To tolerate the stress of a trial.
  • To refrain from irrational and unmanageable behavior during trial.
  • To disclose pertinent facts surrounding the alleged offense.
  • To protect oneself and utilize legal safeguards available.
  • Capacity to communicate facts to lawyer.
  • Capacity to relate and trust lawyer.