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Competence to Stand Trial

Competence to stand trial is conceptualized as a defendant’s ability to (a) understand the proceedings against him or her and (b) assist his or her attorney. This definition stems from the U.S. Supreme Court cases Dusky v. United States (1960) and Drope v. Missouri (1975) and rests on the idea that it is unfair to try a defendant in a court of law if he or she is unable to meaningfully understand the proceedings or participate in his or her defense. Although many states require the presence of a mental health disorder (e.g., a psychotic disorder) or mental defect (e.g., an intellectual disability) as a prerequisite to a finding of incompetence, the mere presence of a mental health disorder or defect does not automatically mean ...

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