How Can My Mental Health Impact My Criminal Case in Texas?
Mental illnesses are undoubtedly an epidemic that has plagued the United States for hundreds of years. Awareness surrounding mental health has surged over the past few decades, recognizing the devastating impact that a mental illness can have on one’s life. According to data from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness. The relationship between mental health and criminality has been under discussion as mass shootings are often attributed to the guilty party’s mental state. So, what happens if someone commits a crime and has a severe mental illness? On the opposing side, is mental illness being used as an excuse to keep people out of prison?
Incompetency to Stand Trial
Texas law recognizes that not everyone is of the proper mental state to stand trial. If the defendant’s attorney raises the question of incompetency to the court, there will be legal procedures followed to verify whether or not the claim has substance and avoid the possibility of incompetency being used as an excuse to avoid harsher criminal penalties. The court will begin by asking for evidence that incompetency is a factor in the case. If some form of evidence can be presented, the court will appoint their own experts to examine the defendant and report to the court on the competency or incompetency of the defendant. The person facing criminal charges can also be examined by an expert of his or her choice to verify the results found by the court-appointed professional.
The state lists two requirements that individuals must meet to be deemed competent in a court of law:
Sufficient ability to consult with their selected attorney with a reasonable degree of understanding
A rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against them
If the individual does not meet both of these minimum requirements, they will be deemed incompetent to stand trial. Those who are found incompetent to stand trial will not face the same legal consequences as those deemed competent. Rather than sending the individual to prison, the Texas legal system seeks to help these individuals find the appropriate treatment for their mental state. This does not mean, however, that the individual will not be confined or restricted to some extent. There are three common options for those found incompetent to stand trial. The defendant will either be transferred to a mental hospital or other inpatient or residential facility, or he or she will be sentenced to a jail-based competency restoration program. Depending on the severity of the person’s charges as well as the programs available in their area, he or she may be ordered to participate in an outpatient competency rehabilitation or treatment program instead.
Contact a Fort Worth Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help
The Crowder Law Firm, P.C. firmly believes that everyone deserves a fair trial, especially those whose decisions or actions are impacted by their mental health. If you have a history of mental health issues or have room to believe that your actions were a result of a mental illness, it is critical that you work with an attorney who can properly explain this in court. Our legal team has over 20 years of experience defending Texans from criminal charges of all kinds, including using incompetency to stand trial within their defense strategy when applicable. Contact our Tarrant County criminal defense attorneys at 214-303-9600 to schedule your free initial consultation.