Competency Arises in Many High Profile Criminal Cases
Recently, mental health issues have been getting a great deal of attention from the media for both the role they play in criminal behavior and how the criminal justice system deals with people experiencing mental health issues. The issues of sanity, insanity and competency are carefully scrutinized. Headlines have been dominated by the upcoming trial of accused Aurora Theater shooter James Holmes and the upcoming trial of Eddie Routh who is accused of murdering American Sniper Chris Kyle. Obviously, the facts of each of these cases are different, but in each case the mental health of the accused will be a central issue in the jury trial. One of the two main issues is Competency to stand trial. Read our prior blog on Insanity as a Defense in Colorado.
Competency / Insanity Rules in Colorado Courts
Mental health can affect a trial in a variety of ways. First and foremost the central question is whether or not the Defendant is competent. In Douglas, Arapahoe and Denver County – and throughout the state — a person accused of a crime must “be competent” before he or she can be prosecuted for their alleged criminal behavior. A person’s constitutional right to due process of law is violated if they are incompetent or insane when tried for a criminal offense. Colorado’s competency statutes provide safeguards against the prosecution of incompetent defendants. See C.R.S. 16-8.5-102(2).
If there is a question about whether or not a defendant is competent and sane, that issue can be raised by anyone (prosecutor, defense attorney or judge). The law requires a trial judge to toll proceedings and determine the competency, incompetency or sanity of a defendant. The defendant will then be evaluated to determine whether they are incompetent to proceed. C.R.S. 16-8.5-103(2).
Colorado’s Competency Definition
In Colorado, insanity and incompetent to proceed mean, the defendant does not have sufficient present ability to consult with the defendant’s lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding in order to assist in the defense, or that, as a result of a mental disability or developmental disability, the defendant does not have a rational and factual understanding of the criminal proceedings. C.R.S. 16-8.5-101(11).
The question turns on whether the defendant can consult with his or her counsel in order to assist in his or her defense or whether they have a rational understanding of the criminal proceedings. C.R.S. 16-8.5-101(11). Competency and insanity has nothing to do with the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the alleged crime, but instead whether they can assist or understand what is going on in the proceedings against them.
If you suspect that your or a loved one may be suffering from insanity or incompetency to face the charges against them, take it seriously as criminal convictions carry lasting affects. We have spent years defending people in Arapahoe, Adams and Boulder County, and we can help you or your loved one. So, be smart, remain silent when police approach you, and be sure you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney by contacting us today at 303-731-0719. Together we can protect your future.