Rule 11 – The Mental Competency to Stand Trial
The state of Arizona expects that defendants who are moving through the criminal justice system should have a mental capacity sufficient to allow them to understand the proceedings against them. Those that do not have this mental competence should not be sentenced pursuant to standard laws.
Arizona’s Rule 11 of the Arizona Rules of Criminal Procedure is in place for defendants with mental disabilities, handicaps, or other similar psychological or neurological conditions that prevent a standard court of law from having due process from being tried or punished. Rule 11 also requires that defendants in capital cases undergo at least one mental health examination.
Rule 11 states that “A defendant may not be tried, convicted, or sentenced while that defendant is incompetent. A defendant is not incompetent to stand trial merely because the defendant has a mental illness, defect, or disability.” Rule 11 defines these as the following:
“Mental illness, defect, or disability” means a psychiatric or neurological disorder that is evidenced by behavioral or emotional symptoms, including congenital mental conditions, conditions resulting from injury or disease, and developmental disabilities.
“Incompetence” means a defendant is unable to understand the nature and objective of the proceedings or to assist in his or her defense because of a mental illness, defect, or disability.
Determining a Defendant’s Competency to Stand Trial
Once a superior court case is filed, indictment is returned, or a misdemeanor complaint is filed, a court may order, on its own or by motion, a defendant to be examined for competency to stand trial. Supporting facts for the examination must be provided. In some cases, the court may order the defendant to undergo a preliminary examination to assess whether there are sufficient grounds to order a more extensive exam.
The court will appoint at least one mental health expert to examine the defendant. These experts are licensed physicians or psychologists who will also write an examination report and potentially testify as to the defendant’s competence.
Within 30 days of the mental health expert submitting their report to the court, the court will hold a hearing to determine competence based on that information.
If the defendant is found by the court to be competent, their regular court proceedings will proceed immediately.
Defendants Found Incompetent to Stand Trial
If a defendant is found to be incompetent, their competence will be classified as either restorable or not restorable.
If a defendant is found to be incompetent but restorable:
- In a superior court – The charges must be dismissed on the State’s motion OR the court must order competency restoration treatment unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant will not regain competence within 15 months.
- In a limited jurisdiction court – The charges must be dismissed or transferred to the superior court OR the court may order competency restoration treatment unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the defendant will not regain competence within the time period provided for the maximum possible sentence.
- The court may extend treatment if it finds that the defendant is progressing toward competence. The extension may be 6 months beyond the 15-month limit so long as this period does not exceed the defendant’s maximum possible sentence.
- The court must determine whether the defendant will be subject to treatment without consent (involuntary treatment).
If a defendant is found to be incompetent and not restorable:
- In a superior court – If it determined that there is no substantial probability that the defendant will become competent with 21 months or within the defendant’s maximum possible sentence, the court may order:
- The defendant be remanded to an approved evaluating agency to begin civil commitment proceedings.
- The appointment of a guardian ad litem to investigate whether the defendant required a guardian, conservatory, or protective order.
- The charges be dismissed without prejudice.
- A trial, if the charge is for a serious offense, to determine if the defendant is dangerous and should be involuntarily committed.
- In a limited jurisdiction court – If it is determined that the defendant is incompetent and that there is no substantial probability that the defendant will become competent within the defined timeframes, the court may:
- Dismiss the action on the State’s motion.
- Transfer the case to the superior court.
Rule 11 Confidentiality
Evidence obtained under Rule 11 is not admissible in a proceeding to determine guilt, unless the defendant presents evidence, either directly or through cross-examination, intended to rebut the presumption of sanity.
Unless the defendant consents, or the statement above applies:
- No statement of a defendant obtained under Rule 11, or evidence resulting from such a statement, concerning the factual basis for the charged offense is admissible at the defendant’s trial, or at any later proceeding to determine guilt.
- No statement of a defendant obtained under Rule 11, or evidence resulting from such a statement, concerning any other event or transaction is admissible at any later proceeding to determine the defendant’s guilt.
However, excluding these points, a statement of the defendant obtained in a Rule 11 matter, or evidence resulting from that statement, may be used by any party in a proceeding to determine whether the defendant is eligible for court-ordered treatment or is a sexually violent person.
Rule 11 reports are confidential and may only be disclosed to other expert mental health experts in related proceedings. The reports will ultimately be sealed and can only be unsealed by court order.
Investigating Mental State at the Time of the Offense
In addition to the standard Rule 11 evaluation, the court may also order an initial screening report to investigate the defendant’s mental status at the time of the offense. This will also be required if the defendant intends to use the “Guilty Except Insane” defense pursuant to A.R.S. 13-502. This defense asserts that that the defendant did not know their criminal act was wrong as a result of mental disease or defect.
In some cases, Rule 11 is a vital tool in a defense attorney’s arsenal. Rideout Law Group is experienced in cases that involve questions of mental competency and Rule 11 evaluations.
RIDEOUT LAW GROUP
With offices in Lake Havasu City and Scottsdale, our firm serves the entire state of Arizona, with a particular focus on criminal defense, family law, and juvenile cases.
Our goal is for the best outcome for your criminal case, which can include:
- charges that are reduced or dropped.
- top experts reviewing your case.
- aggressive negotiations with the prosecution for plea bargains.
- fines or probation in lieu of jail time.
At Rideout Law Group, our attorneys are able to expertly examine the evidence in your case to provide a strong strategy for argument that leads to an outcome that is most favorable to you. We have experience in all types of criminal cases for both adults and juveniles, with positive outcomes both in plea negotiations as well as jury trial settings.
Call us today for a free consultation at 480-584-3328.