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What does incompetent to stand trial mean?

On Behalf of | Sep 28, 2021 | Criminal Defense

When charged with a serious crime, you need to look at all the defense options available. In some cases, your chances of success with pleading innocence are so limited that you need to consider more extreme options.

One of those is claiming you are incompetent to stand trial. It means that you are mentally incapable of understanding that the action you are accused of is a crime.

If a court approves your request, they could do two things:

  1. Release you on bail: A judge can only do this if they believe you pose no danger to yourself or anyone else.
  2. Commit you to a psychiatric facility: This applies when a court believes you might present a danger to yourself or others.

Neither is an easy option. To prove you are mentally incompetent to stand trial will require you to submit to investigation by mental health specialists. If they are convinced, it will not end there. Doctors may use various invasive methods to try and make you competent enough to stand trial.

Can charges be dismissed on mental health grounds?

Maryland law allows a judge to dismiss a case that was delayed because the defendant did not have the necessary mental competency to stand trial. Depending on the crime, either five or 10 years must pass first. The alleged victim and the State Attorney will also have a chance to oppose the dismissal.

Claiming incompetency to stand trial is only a valid defense for specific people. Yet, lesser mental health issues are widespread. Explaining how your condition affected your judgment or made it easy for others to pressure you into doing something may help convince a judge that the picture the prosecution paints of you is wrong.