Mental Disability in the American Criminal Process
“Incapacity to stand trial” is a traditional common law concept prohibiting prosecution of those who lack the capacity to understand the criminal proceedings against them and to assist in their own defense. It differs from “not guilty by reason of insanity” in that incapacity at the time of trial does not excuse criminal responsibility. Instead, it recognizes that regardless of one’s mental condition at the time of the offense one should not face the criminal justice system while presently incapable of comprehending the proceedings. The traditional ban on proceeding against one who is incapable has been viewed as a by-product of the common law maxim that one has the right to be present at his own trial. Foote, A Comment on Pre-Trial Commitment of Criminal Defendants, 108 U. Pa. L. Rev. 832, 834 (1960). In effect, this view holds that one who is without comprehension is essentially absent.
KeywordsMental Disease Sexual Assault Psychopathic Personality Sexual Offense Mental Disability
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