When a person is charged with a crime in Ohio and is exhibiting behaviors or characteristics that indicate that he or she is competent to stand trial, or is in trial and behaving in a strange fashion that may indicate that he or she is not competent to stand trial, the court, defense counsel, and even the prosecution can raise the issue of competency.
Ohio Statutes Regarding Competency
R.C. 2945.37 provides that the issue of competency may be raised by defense counsel, the court and even the prosecution. If the issue is raised prior to trial, the court must hold a hearing on the issue. The hearing must be held within 30 days unless an evaluation is ordered, in which the hearing must be held within 10 days of the evaluation being filed with the court.
If the issue is raised after trial begins, the court will hold a hearing only when good cause is shown or upon the court’s own motion. Factors that are considered in determining whether “good cause” exists include:
- Counsel’s doubts about the competency of the defendant.
- Evidence of bizarre or irrational behavior.
- Prior medical evaluations regarding competency.
During the competency hearing, both the prosecution and the defense may submit evidence pertaining to defendant’s competency and ability to stand trial.
Competency and Burden of Proof in Ohio
In Ohio, the burden of proof is preponderance of the evidence. Specifically, if the court finds that the defendant is not competent to stand trial by a preponderance of the evidence, the court will enter an order pursuant to R.C. 2945.38. The defendant is not competent to stand trial if the judge finds that the defendant:
- Is not able to understand the nature and objective of the proceeding against him or her; OR
- Is unable to assist in his or her own defense.
Test for Competency in Ohio
The test for competency in Ohio is whether:
- The defendant has sufficient present ability to consult with his or her attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding; and
- Whether he or she has a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him or her. See State v. Berry.
A defendant’s failure to make “meaningful responses” to questions posed by the court may be an indicator of incompetence. However, incompetency is not the same as mental instability or insanity. A defendant may be psychotic or emotionally disturbed and still be competent to stand trial. See State v. Bock.
Evidence Sufficient to Prove Defendant is Incompetent to Stand Trial
The court needs to find one of two bases to determine that a person is not competent to stand trial. However, a series of questions must be addressed before making a determination under either basis.
Defendant is unable to understand the nature and objective of the proceeding.
The first question under this basis is whether the defendant knows why he or she is in custody? Specifically, does the defendant know that he or she is being accused of committing a crime?
The second question is whether the defendant understands the charges brought against him or her and is being accused of doing an illegal act?
The third question is whether the defendant understands the possible consequences that may be imposed?
Defendant is unable to assist in his or her own defense.
Under this basis, the first question posed is whether the defendant knows the roles of defense counsel, prosecutor and the judge?
The second question is whether the defendant trusts his or her attorney with information and is acting in his or her best interest?
The third question is can the defendant control himself or herself in the courtroom and follow procedural rules?
The fourth and final question is whether the defendant is realistically able to gauge his or her chances of success and able to make decisions in his or her own best interests?
Competency Hearing – Evidence Presented to the Court
During the competency hearing, the report or a licensed psychiatrist or clinical psychologist will be presented to the court. The question posed to the examiner is whether that person can say to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the defendant can assist in his or her own defense and is competent to stand trial?
The expert must testify in court unless both the state and defense agree to stipulate to the examiner’s report. The defendant has the right to attend a hearing on competency.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with a criminal offense in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC will discuss your case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your criminal offense case.
Johnson Legal, LLC serves the following cities in the central Ohio area for Criminal Defense:
Westerville, Worthington, Columbus, Polaris, Reynoldsburg, Grandview Heights, Shawnee Hills, Bexley, Pickerington, Gahanna, Sunbury, Powell, Upper Arlington, New Albany, Dublin, Hilliard, Lewis Center, Galena, Clintonville, Huber Ridge, Blacklick, Grove City, Delaware, Marysville, Groveport, Newark, Canal Winchester, Obetz, Marion, Mt. Gilead, Pataskala, Granville, Whitehall, Franklin County, Morrow County, Licking County, Knox County, Union County, Madison County and Delaware County