What is Mental Competency?
Why does an attorney request a mental competency hearing?
An attorney requests a mental competency hearing when they believe the
client does not understand the juvenile court process or the client is unable to
assist the attorney with their defense. Mental competency has nothing to do with
how smart a person is. Many juveniles are not competent because they are very
young or they have not yet learned about the court system and their constitutional
rights in school.
Why does it matter whether I am competent or not?
A child who is not competent cannot be adjudicated (found guilty) of
committing a criminal offense. If a juvenile is unable to understand the juvenile
court process or unable to help the attorney with his/her case the charge(s) must be
What happens if the court orders a mental competency exam?
If the court orders mental competency examines, two doctors will be
assigned by the court to meet with the juvenile and question the juvenile about the
court process to determine whether the juvenile is competent. After meeting with
the client the doctor will write a report to the court regarding the juvenile’s
competency. The doctor can find the juvenile is competent (understands the court
process and can assist the attorney), incompetent/restorable (does not understand
the court process but with a little tutoring the juvenile will be able to learn the
juvenile court process) or not competent/ not restorable (does not understand the
court process and will not be able to learn the information in six months).
How do I know when to meet with the doctors?
The parents of the juvenile will receive a letter informing them of the dates,
times, locations and names of the doctors. The parents are responsible for taking
the juvenile to the appointments unless the juvenile is in detention then the doctor
will go to detention to see the child. If the parent is unable to make an
appointment the doctor must be contacted immediately and the appointment
rescheduled. If a juvenile misses an appointment the parents could be assessed the
cost of the appointment, $300.00.
What happens after I see the doctors?
After seeing the juvenile and before the next court hearing the doctors will
prepare a report to the court informing the judge whether the doctor believes the
juvenile is competent, incompetent/ restorable or incompetent/non-restorable. The
judge will use this information to determine the juvenile’s competency. If the
judge finds the juvenile competent the court will set the matter for an adjudication
(trial); if the child is found incompetent/ restorable, the child will be placed in
restoration; and if the child is found incompetent/ non-restorable the charges will
What is restoration?
Restoration is a once a week, unless the court orders more frequent sessions,
individual tutoring session on the juvenile justice process. Once a week for up to
six months the juvenile meets with the restoration specialist at the child’s home or
school to receive 50 minutes of tutoring on the court system. Every sixty days the
court will hold a review hearing to determine if the child is competent. Prior to
the review hearing, the juvenile will be evaluated by a psychologist who will send
a report to the court regarding whether the doctor believes the juvenile has become
competent. Once the juvenile is competent the court will set the matter for an
adjudication (trial) hearing and the case will move forward. If at the end of six
months the juvenile is still incompetent and will not understand the juvenile court
process even if he receives another two months of lessons, the charges are
If the juvenile is found competent, then what?
If the court finds that the juvenile is competent (able to understand the court
process and assist his counsel) the judge will set an adjudication hearing (trial).
Prior to the adjudication hearing the attorney will meet with the juvenile to discuss
a possible plea offer and prepare for trial.