Competency to Stand Trial

AuthorEric Y. Drogin
Competency to Stand Trial
Eric Y. Drogin
The following two chapters—“Competency to Stand Trial” and “Criminal
Responsibility”—are deliberately placed next to each other because (1) law-
yers and judges often confuse these two concepts; and (2) it is vital to know
the differences and similarities between the two. Generally speaking, as Dr.
Eric Y. Drogin, the author of both chapters points out, competency is the
ability to understand the nature of the legal proceedings and the ability to
assist counsel. In other words, competency is a measurement of the cli-
ent’s current mental condition. By contrast, an evaluation of sanity or criminal
responsibility is an attempt to take a snapshot of the client’s mental condition
at the time of the alleged incident. In order to determine competency and/or
to pursue an insanity defense, an expert will be appointed or counsel must
secure an expert. Those experts will administer a range of tests; interview the
client as well as others who know the accused such as family, friends, and
coworkers; and review collateral materials such as school, medical, employ-
ment, and military records.
As Dr. Drogin points out in the chapter on “Competency to Stand Trial,”
the decision to request a competency evaluation is not only one of the first
decisions an attorney makes, but also one that will set the course for the
entire criminal case. Although this chapter is self-contained, readers are
encouraged to explore the abundant cross-references to other chapters as
the issue of competency raises a host of other issues such as mitigation,
malingering, forced medication, and the ethical implications of arguing that a
client is not competent to stand trial.
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