Competency to Stand Trial
The landmark case governing adjudicative competency is Dusky v. United States which held that the test for competence is “whether the accused 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 a factual understanding of the proceedings against him.” Dr. Ernst begins competency evaluations with a detailed conversation with the defendant’s attorney, regarding his observation of symptoms, potential dispositions, possible legal strategies, and the specific capacities the defendant must exhibit to assist in his defense. This conversation provides a framework to assess the presence or absence of capacities, relevant to the Dusky Standard, which the defendant must exhibit in in his unique legal circumstances. Dr. Ernst routinely utilizes forensic assessment instruments designed to assess competency including the FIT-R, ILK, and MacCAT-CA. He carefully distinguishes between competence to assist counsel (the capacity to understand one’s charges and the legal process) and decisional competence (the capacity to rationally apply this knowledge to one’s unique legal circumstances). Dr. Ernst has conducted numerous competency evaluations with individuals presenting with diverse psychiatric presentations including psychosis, mania, and neuropsychological impairment.
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