When it comes to the criminal process the issues of competence and sanity are very different matters. Competence refers to the here and now, during the criminal process; whereas sanity refers to the time that the offense was committed.
The issue of competence can be raised by anyone (the defense, the State or the Court on it’s own initiative) and requires that forensic mental health evaluators determine whether or not the Defendant understands the nature of the charges against her/him, the range of possible penalties, the adversarial nature of the criminal process (i.e. what the defense lawyer, prosecutor, judge and jury’s roles are), whether or not the Defendant can assist defense counsel in the preparation of her / his own defense, whether s/he can behave appropriately in the courtroom and whether or not s/he can testify in her/his own behalf should s/he choose to do so. If a Defendant is declared incompetent to proceed then s/he goes to a facility for treatment and will be reevaluated every 6 months. 5 years of continued and unbroken incompetence can result in a dismissal of felony charges (the time frame is 1 year for misdemeanors).
The issue of sanity can be raised as an affirmative defense to any criminal prosecution. Essentially doing so is an admission that the Defendant committed the crime but states that at the time s/he was unable to differentiate right from wrong because of a major mental illness or organic brain disorder. Lodging an insanity defense is a huge gamble and should only be undertaken a) by a skilled and experienced professional who understands the nuances of this niche in the criminal process and b) where it is supported by both the facts of the case and the mental health history of the Defendant.
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Please note that no attorney-client relationship with either Michael A. Haber, PA or Michael A. Haber, Esq. exists as a result of your watching this Webisode series. Further any and all information which is both contained in and may be construed from this Webisode series is generic in nature and should only be considered as informational and not as actual legal advise in any specific case. Should you wish to seek actual legal advise then please feel free to contact Michael A. Haber, Esq. as follows:
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