In order to be tried in criminal court, the defendant must competent. In order to be competent, the defendant must understand and participate in their legal proceedings
. Individuals found incompetent can raise the insanity defense. Competency is determine prior to trial. 

When Can a Defendant’s Mental Competency Be Questioned in a Criminal Case?

In California, either a judge or the defendant’s attorney can question a defendant’s mental status. A judge can decide there’s a need to investigate the competency of a defendant. The judge can ask the defendant’s attorney for their opinion. 

If a judge doesn’t raise the issue of a defendant’s competency, then the attorney can raise the issue. The attorney has the responsibility of providing substantial evidence about a defendant’s incompetency. 

Is a Court Hearing Part of the Competency Hearing Process?

Yes. Once the competency issue is raised, the next step is a hearing. At the hearing, the court will appoint a psychologist to examine the defendant. 

Do I Have to Prove I’m Not Competent to Stand Trial?

A defendant’s attorney has the burden of proving the defendant isn’t competent to stand trial. The proof doesn’t need to be beyond a reasonable doubt, but by the preponderance of the evidence

What are the Possible Outcomes of a Competency Hearing?

The judge may decide the defendant is competent to stand trial. If the defendant is found incompetent, one of three things can happen: 

  • The defendant is committed to a treatment facility or county jail
  • The defendant receives outpatient treatment 
  • The defendant is committed to a treatment center or mental hospital for individuals with developmental disabilities 

Can An Attorney Explain More about Competency Hearing Process?

Yes. Contact a California criminal lawyer about competency in criminal court in California.