What Does It Mean When Someone Is Not Competent to Stand Trial?

When the Court decides a defendant is not competent to stand trial, this means that it would be a Constitutional violation to prosecute the defendant based on the defendant's mental state. If a defendant is unable to show a rational and factual understanding of her charges or the legal process, she may be found incompetent to stand trial.

What Is the Process for Determining Whether a Defendant Is Competent?

Usually, the defendant's attorney will request a court-ordered competency evaluation. The judge then decides whether a competency evaluation is appropriate. The competency evaluation will determine whether the defendant is competent, incompetent but restorable, or incompetent and not restorable.

What Happens to a Defendant Who Is Found to Be Incompetent but Restorable?

This means the defendant is currently incompetent to stand trial but can be restored to competency through in-patient or outpatient treatment. Sometimes, restoration is just a matter of the defendant staying up to date on their prescribed medications with a case manager. Other times, the defendant must be enrolled into a mental health facility. In Texas, a defendant generally cannot not be committed to an inpatient facility, or ordered to participate in an outpatient competency restoration program, for a cumulative period greater than the maximum term for the offense charged.

How Does the Restoration Process Work?

When a defendant is found competent but restorable, the Court will order either in-patient or outpatient treatment to restore the defendant to competency. The Court will order that the defendant complete a certain number of days in treatment. After that time passes, another competency evaluation will determine whether the defendant has been restored to competency. If the defendant has been restored to competency, the state can reinitiate the prosecution. In some instances, the defendant may be restored to competency sooner than the Court expected, and the in-patient facility must inform the Court that the defendant does not need to complete the court-ordered term of treatment.

What Happens to a Defendant Who Is Found to Be Incompetent and Not Restorable?

This type of finding indicates that neither in-patient nor outpatient treatment will help the defendant understand the charges against her. Under these circumstances, the defendant cannot be prosecuted for her crimes. However, the state may pursue civil commitment. If the defendant meets the criteria for civil commitment, the defendant may be committed for up to one year. The civil commitment can be renewed every subsequent year if the defendant continues to meet the criteria for civil commitment. However, like restoration programs, a defendant cannot not be civilly committed for a cumulative period greater than the maximum term for the offense charged.