Standards Involved in Competency Hearings
A competency hearing is a legal assessment of the ability of a defendant or participant to understand and rationally participate in a court process. In the context of Family Law, these are usually used to determine possible guardianship in the event of the dissolution of marriage or death of a spouse, or who will care for an elderly parent or family member. There are a number of factors that will go into deciding a person’s competency in the eyes of the law. Some of these are the ability to:
- adequately communicate with counsel
- understand and process information
- make decisions regarding the case
- understand the elements and gravity of the charges, as well as a grasp of the penalties
The court will generally not find someone incompetent due to re, education level, or language barrier. In essence, competency has a very low threshold and a defendant need not have a sophisticated understanding of a case to be ruled competent enough to go to trial. Arguments for insanity and diminished capacity during the act of the alleged crime are not relevant to a competency hearing and will instead be determined at trial.
Whether you are faced with a pending competency hearing or need to request one, you need adequate legal representation. The lawyers at Himelman and Himelman are ready to help you with competency hearings, regardless of what side you are on in this complicated matter.