Criminal defendants must be legally competent to go through a court trial in the state of Texas for the criminal charges that they are facing. If they are incompetent, they cannot stand trial for the criminal charges until they have become competent in the future.
To be competent, defendants must be able to consult with their attorneys with a reasonable degree of understanding. They also must have rational and factual knowledge of the proceedings against them. If the evidence shows that defendants lack either one of these capacities by a preponderance of the evidence, then they will not be competent to stand trial.
Either the defendant’s defense attorney or the prosecutor may raise questions about whether a defendant is competent. The court also may initiate an inquiry into whether a defendant is competent. At this point, the court questions the defendant informally to determine whether a full competency examination of the defendant is warranted. If the court decides that the defendant must undergo a complete examination, the court can appoint an independent expert to evaluate the defendant, who is usually a psychiatrist or psychologist.
If the expert determines that the defendant is incompetent, the defendant must receive treatment until he or she is competent to stand trial. In most cases, the defendant will be committed to an inpatient mental health facility for treatment. If the defendant regains competency following treatment, the criminal proceedings will resume, and he or she will stand trial for the criminal charges as planned.
Some of the most common reasons for incompetence findings include mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Addictions such as alcohol and drug abuse also may contribute to incompetency findings.
Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to assisting individuals in resolving their criminal charges. We know that criminal proceedings can be intimidating and overwhelming for those who are facing potential penalties for criminal charges. We will work with you to achieve the most favorable outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled criminal defense attorneys today.