In the last chapter we learned how the criminal justice system provides for someone who commits a crime without having the requisite mental state. In this chapter we shall learn about what happens to someone who is mentally ill and cannot understand their charges or the court proceedings or cannot help her or his attorney provide a defense. While this is a separate issue from mental state at the time of the offense, sometimes a person who is found to have been insane at the time of the offense had also been found incompetent to proceed to trial at an earlier time. Assessing the person’s mental state at a particular time after being charged with a crime is called ‘competence to stand trial’ and we have developed some basic rules that must be followed so that the person is treated fairly. Remember, in the Common Law legal system the U.S. and other countries have adapted, a person must be considered innocent until proven guilty. This process cannot occur if the person cannot assist the attorney at trial.
KeywordsCriminal Justice System Mental Health Professional Trial Court Delusional Disorder Civil Commitment
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