Wednesday, May 27, 2015

CA Supreme Court Issues Ruling On Juvenile Competency

On May 18, the California Supreme Court published In re R.V., an important decision with major implications for juveniles facing criminal prosecution in California courts.

The Court ruled that juveniles, like adults, have a due process right not to be tried while they are deemed mentally incompetent. Juveniles are presumed competent to stand trial unless the juvenile defendant rebuts this presumption by proving his/her incompetency by a preponderance of the evidence. 

Section 709 of the California Criminal Code governs juvenile competency proceedings. Section 709 defines a minor as incompetent if her or she

(i) Lacks sufficient present ability to consult with counsel and assist in preparing his or her defense with a reasonable degree of rational understanding; or

(ii) Lacks a rational as well as factual understanding, of the nature of the charges or proceedings against him or her.”

If, after an examination and a hearing, the juvenile is deemed incompetent then the criminal proceedings against the minor will be temporarily suspended for no longer than is reasonably necessary for the minor to receive services and to try and regain competency.

In this particular case, a minor was arrested in Orange County in 2012 after allegedly brandishing a knife at family members during a dispute about his going to school. Despite the juvenile’s attorney’s arguments that his client was not competent to stand trial, the juvenile was nevertheless tried for the crime.

The juvenile appealed the decision all the way to the California Supreme Court, which ultimately agreed with the minor that he was incompetent at the time of trial.

Like adult defendants, juveniles charged with crimes have important constitutional rights that must be protected in order to receive due process and a fair trial.

If your child or that of someone you know is being investigated or charged with a crime, contact the Law Office of Katie Walsh to speak with a knowledgeable juvenile and criminal defense lawyer today.

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