The Importance Of Competence In The Legal Process

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It has long been found necessary that a defendant be able to assist, understand and participate in the legal process. Putting on trial those who are so impaired that they cannot aid in their defense or are unaware of the nature and purpose of the proceedings against them is considered to challenge both the worth of the legal process and notions about fairness. An underlying mental disorder can hinder a defendant in challenging charges made against him or providing important facts about their case. In Dusky V United States (1960) the Supereme Court ruled that defendants must possess “sufficient present ability to consult with his/her lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational undetstanding (and have a) rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him”. The words “sufficient” ability and “reasonable” understanding are reffering to the defendants capacities, which do not necessarily have to be flawless. Reference to “present” ability makes evident that we should only take into consideration the abilities of the defendant at the present time and during the future of the trial. A simple lack of knowledge of legal processes does not render somebody incompetent to stand trial. However, more then just the understanding of legal processes is necessary, a defendant must have the ability to appreciate and consider the facts of the case. Competence is ultimately decided by the judge, a mental health professional will however state their professional opinion that the judge will then take into consideration. Those who are found not competent to stand trial are commited to a mental institution until they regain competence. There are some instances where it is possible to involuntarily medicate a person if it will make ... ... middle of paper ... them competent to stand trial without the government proving that the administration of the drugs is appropriate. “that the drugs are substantially likely to render the defendant competent to stand trial; and that the less intrusive non-drug alternatives would likely be ineffective in accomplishing the same objective” (APA, US v Gomes). The APA also weighed in on Sell v US (2003) stating similar information with a few added points. Along with those stated previously, the APA also stated that the medications benefits outweigh the possible side effects of the medication. If there are any side effects to the medication, the government should show how said side effects will not hinder the defendants ability to defending himself. The US Supreme Court agreed with the APA and has made those four points mandatory in order to involuntarily medicate a criminal defendant.
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