Competency of Defendant Must Focus on the Defendant’s Present Abilities, As Opposed to the Possibility That the Relevant Abilities May Be Restored in the Future
September 19th, 2022

Under both the federal due process clause as interpreted by Dusky v. United States (1960) 362 U.S. 40, and Penal Code section 1367, a finding of incompetency does “not require a specific medical diagnosis drawn from the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, [or] that the defendant’s mental disorder fit neatly within the standard diagnostic taxonomy.” (People v. Buenrostro (2018) 6 Cal.5th 367, 389-90.)  Further, the issue of whether defendant is able to understand the nature of the proceedings involves an assessment of defendant’s “‘capacity to have a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings…,’” and both prongs of the competency inquiry, including defendant’s ability to assist counsel, “focus[] on the defendant’s present abilities, as opposed to the possibility that the relevant abilities may be restored in the future.” (Id. at 391.)

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