Posted On: November 28, 2011

INCOMPETENCY IN FLORIDA CRIMINAL COURTS

Florida criminal courts, like most states, recognize the inability to understand the nature of what is going on, and actively participate in your defense, as incompetency: incompetency stops the criminal trial process. If you've been charged with a criminal act in Florida, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, or Miami, and incompetency is an issue, it can be raised under the Florida rules of criminal procedure. The rule states that at any critical stage of a criminal proceeding, the issue of competency, if raised and established, stops the criminal prosecution of the case. Incompetency to proceed is raised by your criminal defense the following way: A motion to determine competency is filed with the court in which the attorney has to certify, after due diligence and a good faith belief, that the criminal defendant is incompetent proceed. In a criminal case in Florida one is incompetent to proceed if you don't understand the charges, or the allegations, don't appreciate or understand the range of possible penalties, you don't understand the adversary nature of a criminal trial, and cannot manifest appropriate courtroom behavior. The procedure requires a court to appoint three psychologists to conduct a mental health competency examination. If two of the three concur that competency is an issue; then the judge, most likely, will follow their findings and the case stops. If the issue is one of a mental illness then it allows the state two years to restore competency. All other competency questions require a residential in-custody therapy program be imposed and the state has five years to restore competency or the case can resolve with a dismissal. For more information about the difference between insanity and competency, speak with your South Florida criminal defense attorney.