Competency/Rule 11

Competency and Rule 11 in Arizona

Competency affects various areas of the criminal law system. In Arizona, Rule 11 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure sets forth the process for determining competency.

The US Supreme Court set forth in Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402 (1960), that in order for a defendant to be found competent the “test must be whether he has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding–and whether he has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him.” This means a defendant must be both able to assist his counsel in his defense and able to understand the charges he is facing and the consequences of the outcome of the case.

In Arizona, at any time after a person is charged with a crime, any party to the case, including the court, may file a motion with the court seeking a determination of the competency of the defendant. Competency can be with regards to three things: standing trial, entering a plea, or assisting their attorney in their defense. The motion must also include the reasons why the party filing the motion believes the defendant’s competency may be in question.

Once a motion is entered and accepted by the court, each party must submit all medical and criminal history records to the court. Then the court will determine if reasonable grounds exists to examine the defendant for competency. The Arizona Supreme Court held in State v. Salazar, 128 Ariz. 461, 462 (1981), that the reasonable grounds requirement will be met if the court determines there is “sufficient evidence” to support a finding of incompetency. The court may appoint an expert to conduct a preliminary examination to assist in this determination.

If the court determines there are not reasonable grounds for further competency examination, the case commences normally and without delay. If, however, the court finds there are reasonable grounds to order further examination, and the case is in a court other than the county superior court, such as a city court, the case will be moved to the superior court for the duration of the competency matter.

Having the court determine there are reasonable grounds to order competency examination does not prevent or delay a defendant from seeking and obtaining pretrial release; however, the court can prevent pretrial release in conjunction with the competency examination if “the defendant will not submit to an outpatient examination as a condition of pretrial release, the defendant refuses to appear for an examination, an adequate examination is impossible without the confinement of the defendant, or the defendant is a threat to public safety.” A.R.S. §13-4507(E)(1)-(4).

If confinement is ordered, it is limited to only the time required to make a determination, not to exceed 30 days and an available 15-day extension for extraordinary circumstances, at the determination of the court. The defendant will not have to pay any of the costs of this examination or confinement.

During the examination, defendants’ statements made and evidence given to the examiner are privileged, which means that they may not be used in court to prove guilt or innocence in connection with this or any other crime. The only exception to this is if the defendant claims insanity as a defense, in which case the State may use any statements or evidence in the examiner’s report that tend to rebut the claim of insanity. Furthermore, the documents produced during this process will be sealed upon a plea of guilty, guilty except insane, or if the defendant is found to not be restorable to competency, only to be opened under limited circumstances.

Pursuant to the examiner’s report, the court will hold a hearing where both parties can present evidence within 30 days of receipt of that report in order to determine whether the defendant is competent, incompetent to stand trial, or incompetent to refuse treatment. If the defendant is found competent, the trial continues as normal without delay. However, if the defendant is found to be incompetent, the process gets complicated for the defendant.

If incompetency is found, the court is required to order treatment aimed at restoring competency unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant will not be restored within 15 months. If treatment is ordered in a matter involving a felony, it lasts 15 months with a possible extension of 6 months if the court finds that progress towards competency is being made. The court has the discretion to order commitment of the defendant for this treatment if the court determines that treatment will not be successful otherwise.

The court will appoint a clinical liaison to periodically submit reports regarding the defendant’s current state of competency, any progress towards competency, and an opinion regarding the likelihood of the defendant regain competency. Upon receipt of these reports, the court will decide whether to hold a competency hearing in order to determine if competency has been restored. If competency is determined to be restored, the trial will commence without delay.

If the court finds that the defendant is incompetent to stand trial without substantial probability that competence can be restored within 21 months, any party may request that the court remand the defendant for civil commitment proceedings, appoint a guardian, or release the defendant and drop the charges without prejudice (meaning the charges can be raised again in the future).

Proceedings of this type can be very confusing and have many implications for the personal rights and liberties of the defendant involved. That is why it is crucial for the defendant to have a skilled and experienced attorney represent them. Bernardo Garcia is very experienced in representing defendants with mental diseases and conditions.

If Mr. Garcia is able to demonstrate that his client is not competent and that his client will not be restored within the statutory period, the client’s case will be dismissed.

(Every case is different and your case may vary.)

In Arizona v. J. F., Mr. Garcia secured a dismissal for a man charged with multiple sex crimes. The client suffered from mental retardation. With an average IQ somewhere between 50 and 68, Defendant was found incompetent by three court-appointed doctors based on his inability to grasp even basic legal concepts, even after attempts at restoration and education regarding the legal system. By assisting his client through these proceedings, Bernardo was able to show that the defendant was incompetent to stand trial and was not restorable, resulting in the court dismissing the case.

In Arizona v. J. L., Mr. Garcia defended a man charged with 2 counts of aggravated assault, and 1 count of resisting arrest, criminal damage, and disorderly conduct. The defendant, in this case, suffered from developmental delays and cognitive deficiencies. Bernardo found during his initial interview that the Defendant was not able to understand the judicial system and the adversarial process, and therefore filed for competency proceedings. Bernardo showed that the defendant was incompetent to stand trial and was not restorable within the statutory limitations, and the case was therefore dismissed.

In Arizona v. M. S., The defendant suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD disorder from a young age and still suffered them at the time of the offense (DUI and reckless driving). These illnesses showed the Court that the defendant was not competent to stand trial for failure to be able to assist in his own defense. In the end, Mr. Garcia got the case dismissed by demonstrating that the defendant was incompetent to stand trial and was not restorable within the statutory timeframe.

Mr. Garcia understands the challenges and difficulties families encounter as they deal with mental illness in their own lives.  He is ready and willing to assist your family with the stresses of having a loved one with special needs succumb to criminal charges. Let Mr. Garcia help your family navigate the daunting legal process, and secure for your loved one a just ending in this difficult time.