Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Competency Definition:

An individual's ability to understand the nature and object of legal proceedings being presented, and to consult with counsel.

Related Terms: Testamentary Capacity, Capacity, Non Compos Mentis

In Smith v Rock, Justice Jones of the United States District Court summarized the legal test for ascertaining whether a litigant is competent to stand trial.

"A defendant is incompetent to stand trial if he lacks the capacity to understand the nature and object of the proceedings against him, to consult with counsel, and to assist in preparing his defense."

In State v Davis, Justice Rucker of the Supreme Court of Indiana wrote:

"Due process precludes placing a defendant on trial while she is incompetent. An accused has a constitutional right not to be tried if he does not have the ability to comprehend the proceedings or to assist in his defense.

"In this jurisdiction the test for determining competency is whether the defendant has sufficient present ability to consult with defense counsel with a reasonable degree of rational understanding, and whether the defendant has a rational as well as a factual understanding of the proceedings against him."


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