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Everyday mental health is becoming an area of increased awareness in our society.  Florida’s criminal justice system has a procedure to deal with those suspected of being so mentally ill that they are incompetent to be prosecuted, but does this procedure, which has essentially remained unchanged for the past decade, adequately address the varying aspects of mental health deficiencies as we understand them today?

Under Rule 3.211, Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure, one can only be deemed “incompetent to proceed” if a Defendant displays certain characteristics that indicate that a defendant may not be mentally stable or is unable to understand either the nature of the charges against him or the basics of the adversarial legal process, then a defendant may enter a suggestion of incompetency and ask the court to appoint an expert to evaluate the defendant and ensure that he is not mentally defective.

“Incompetent to proceed” does not simply mean that a person is completely unable to function.  Rather, it means that an individual is not capable, by reason of a mental defect, to understand and appreciate the nature of the charges against him or her or cannot meaningfully participate in his or her own defense.  Rule 3.210 of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure outlines the process by which an attorney may ask the court to determine the competency of a defendant.

Needless to say, it’s quite a process.  Experts are brought in, judicial findings are made, and even though a person is deemed incompetent by a court does not necessarily mean that they will not face prosecution for a crime.  It’s a complicated procedure.  Don’t allow yourself or a loved one to face it alone.  Visit my website at http://www.shafercriminallaw.com or call me at (904)350-9333 for a free consultation.

~Robert Shafer