Youth Competency to Stand Trial — the Need for New Policies

Indiana lacks statutes within the juvenile code that give a clear roadmap for the juvenile court about how to determine if a juvenile is competent to stand trial and what measures should be taken if the child is found to be incompetent.  We need leadership in the legislature and amongst juvenile advocates and providers to address this issue of juvenile competence.

Normally, if the juvenile code does not give guidance, IC 31-32-1-1 directs participants to next look to the criminal code.  However, that leads to a dead end of sorts.  Pursuant to In re R.L.H., 831 N.E.2d 250 (Ind.Ct.App. 2005), the juvenile court erred in using the criminal law competency statutes at IC 35-36-3, and were directed to the mental health commitment procedures at IC 12-26-8.  In addition, the juvenile court may not commit a child to the Indiana Division of Mental Health by applying the criminal law competency statutes, pursuant to In re K.G., 808 N.E.2d 631 (Ind. 2004).  Therefore, the juvenile court cannot evaluate for competency and order restorative treatment in the same manner as the criminal court may with a defendant.

A Webinar When Youth are Not Competent to Stand Trial gives an overview of the issue in general.

To aid in developing legislation, Models for Change has issued a Developing Statutes for Competence to Stand Trial in Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings: A Guide for Lawmakers, which are summarized in the National Juvenile Justice Network Competency to Stand Trial in Juvenile Court: Recommendations for Policymakers.

The following are not free on the Internet, but see also Clinical Evaluations for Juveniles’ Competence to Stand Trial: A Guide for Legal Professionals and Evaluating Juveniles’ Adjudicative Competence: A Guide for Clinical Practice by Thomas Grisso.  The links go to Amazon, but the books are available from other sources too.

This entry was posted in Court Proceedings, Legislation, Mental Health and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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