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Competency to Stand Trial

The legal standard for competency to stand trial in the United States was articulated by the U.S. Supreme Court in Dusky v. United States (1960), wherein the Court determined that a defendant must have “sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding” and a “rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him” (p. 402). Mental health professionals are called on to assist the courts by evaluating defendants' competency to stand trial, often aided by assessment tools designed specifically for this purpose, and by providing treatment for the restoration of competency in incompetent defendants. Psychological research in this area has examined the reliability of competency assessments, the characteristics of defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial, and ...

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