Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology

2018 Edition
| Editors: Jeffrey S. Kreutzer, John DeLuca, Bruce Caplan

Legal Competency

  • Robert L. HeilbronnerEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57111-9_1429


Competency to proceed


Otherwise referred to as “competency to proceed,” this term refers to a criminal defendant’s capacity to participate effectively and make decisions on his or her own legal behalf while being prosecuted. It is to be distinguished from legal sanity because it has a very different legal standard. Furthermore, competency most commonly deals with current mental states (at the time of the proceedings), whereas insanity deals with the mental state (mens rea) at the time the offense(s) were committed. Competency to proceed is relevant to any portion of the process, from talking to police (i.e., Miranda rights to remain silent) to plead guilty, receive a sentence, waive one’s right to counsel, and even being executed.

The rationale for questioning/examining a defendant’s competency can be traced back to English common law and the seventeenth century. In Dusky v United States (1960), the US Supreme Court upheld the right of a criminal defendant to be...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References and Readings

  1. Dusky v. U.S. (1960). 362 US 402.Google Scholar
  2. Estelle v. Smith, 451 U.S. 454 (1981).Google Scholar
  3. Marcopulos, B. A., Morgan, J. E., & Denney, R. L. (2008). Neuropsychological evaluation of competency to proceed. In R. Denney & J. Sullivan (Eds.), Clinical neuropsychology in the criminal forensic setting. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  4. Poythress, N. G., Nicholson, R., Otto, R. K., et al. (1999). The MacArthur competence assessment tool-criminal adjudication (MacCat-CA). Odessa: Psychological Assessment Resources.Google Scholar
  5. Zapf, P. A., & Roesch, R. (2009). Evaluation of competence to stand trial. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chicago Neuropsychology GroupChicagoUSA