Defining Competency: The Constitutional Standard

Defining Competency: The Constitutional Standard

Determining the competency of a defendant has caused a lot of controversy throughout history.  The standard of competency dates all the way back to English common law that if a person is “mad” that they cannot properly defend themselves in court (Cruise, 1998).  But what accurately defines being “mad”? 

The case of Dusky vs. United States was the first to identify and define stipulations for competency apart from general mental health.  Milton Dusky charges of the assistance of rape and kidnapping were petitioned on the grounds that he was not competent to stand trial.  This court case defined a two prong standard for defining competency.  The defendant must “1) have sufficient ability to consult with an attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding; and 2) have a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings” (Cruise, 1998, p. 37).

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