1. Identify And Discuss The Issues Raised In A Competency Hearing.

Issues Raised in a Competency Hearing

The due process rights of a defendant must be protected during criminal proceedings and as such when they incompetent to stand trial they cannot be prosecuted.[1] A defendant is deemed to be competent to stand trial if they have sufficient present ability to consult with their attorney or advocate in a reasonably rational manner and that rational extends to them knowing the facts and consequences of the proceedings.[2] There are two main issues which if either or both is found by the court then the defendant or accused will be deemed to be incompetent to stand trial (Stafford and Sellbom, 2013).

The first issue for consideration is whether the defendant understands the objective and nature of the proceedings. During the hearing the court and with the help of a psychiatrist evaluate if the accused knows the reason why they are in custody and whether it has come to their attention that they have infringed any laws. The defendants understanding of the types and nature of punishment. If it comes to attention of the court that the defendant does not sufficiently understand such, they will be declared incompetent to stand trial (Fogel et al, 2013).

The other issue for consideration is whether the defendant is able to assist their own defense. The defendant is competent when they recognize the role of their defense attorney, the judge/magistrate, and that of their prosecution. The defendant should be able to trust their advocate to act in their best interest. They further should be able to respect the procedures of court and make decisions that favor their cases (Neal and Grisso, 2014).

Disorders that can Render an Offender Incompetent to Stand Trial

Mental health disorder are grounds for rendering an accused incompetent to stand trial. An accused is not automatically rendered incompetent to stand trial owing to the evidence on mental disorder or development of instability.[3] Such evidence must be able to point that the disorder or disability developmental is the reason why the accused is not able to meet the standard set up in Dusky v United States (Neal and Grisso, 2014).

Assessment Instructions Used in Competency Evaluation

The clinical interview can be used in the process. This form of assessment focuses on psychological aspect. It can be conducted by mental health specialists and it involves a lot of questioning of the accused and making deductions in their favor. It is the first assessment done in various instances of competency hearing. This assessment helps establish the background of the accused which is important to both the proceeding and evaluation (Fogel et al, 2013).

Personality assessment can be used during the evaluation. Both the objective and projective tests can be used here to know who the accuses really is. The true/ false questions may be asked to aid in assessing the competency of the accused. Attributes such as tension, vigilance and vigilance which are probable to make accused incompetent are ascertained (Neal and Grisso, 2014).

Assessment can be made on the behavior of the accused to ascertain if they are competent or not to stand trial. Through analysis how the accused conducts himself/herself it is possible to know their motives. If the accused through their actions intentionally tries to make themselves incompetent by methods such as not collaborating with their attorneys, the psychiatrist is able to detect by assessing their actions (Stafford and Sellbom, 2013).

Other Psychological Tests

The IQ test can be used to evaluate the competency to stand trial of an accused. When they are far much below the expected for them to understand their actions and consequences then they may be considered incompetent to stand trial (Neal and Grisso, 2014).

The attitude test is an applicable test in competency evaluations. Ascertaining an accused’s feelings about the court process, the relationship between them the prosecution and their counsels, the charges and the consequences will help ascertain if they are competent to stand trial (Stafford and Sellbom, 2013).

Neuropsychological tests are important for evaluation of competency to stand trial. The accused is assessed if by any chances they have suffered brain damage which have subsequently affected their cognitive abilities. If there exist such instances, then they are rendered incompetent (Fogel et al, 2013).


[1] Pate v. Robinson, 383 U.S. 375, 86 S. Ct. 836, 15 L. Ed. 2d 815 (1966).

[2] Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 80 S. Ct. 788, 4 L. Ed. 2d 824 (1960).

[3] Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 122 S. Ct. 2242, 153 L. Ed. 2d 335 (2002).

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