Issues of mental competency are becoming more and more prevalent in the courtroom. While it has always been the elephant in the room in capital trials, it is starting to appear in minor criminal complaints. If your client may not pass the standard of mental competency to be held accountable or if you are trying to prove that the defendant is competent – you have an uphill battle on either side. The problem is that precedent for competency is subject to every evolving accepted medical standard. Ever petition for competency rulings has to approach the subject as if it is new.
The problem with the new Asperger’s defense trend
There have been more cases in the news where Asperger’s has been pointed towards as the competency factor for the defendant. While Asperger’s is a recognized disorder on the Autism Spectrum scale, the new DSM-V has redefined the qualifications for its diagnoses. Part of this stems from the “trendiness” of the diagnoses which resulted in many people with other social issues being labeled as having Asperger’s. There is more of a chance that the court may find that the diagnosis is supported, but the experts may present that it does not affect the mental competency of the client.
Making sure that your expert is right
After talking to Criminal Lawyers at Montoya Shaffer LLC, it’s evident you have to make sure that your expert is going to be seen as having the stronger evidence for a ruling in your favor when it comes to competency issues. It is also helpful to make sure that you have supporting witnesses who are in positions of authority that can document how the client was able/not able to meet requirements of a position or responsibility due to issues that support/combat a diagnosis of Asperger’s.
What to do when someone is high functioning
If the client is on the high functioning end of the Autism Spectrum it can be very hard to determine whether or not they are mentally competent. You have to clearly define phases of competency and relate them back to mental and emotional processing that result in cause and effect understanding. A client on the spectrum will not be able to internalize the cause and effect without structured repetition. If there is no challenge to the impact of their behavior, they may not meet the requirements for competency and culpability in a criminal matter. Before you approach mental competency, make sure you have a full understanding of the support and criticisms of the diagnosis.