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Juvenile Competency to Stand Trial: Questions in an Era of Punitive Reform

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Volume: 12 Issue: 3 Dated: Fall 1997 Pages: 5-11
T. Grisso
Date Published
7 pages
This article examines whether juvenile offenders can be expected to effectively assist in their own defense.
A criminal defendant must be capable of meaningful participation in his or her defense, must be competent to stand trial, having “sufficient present ability to consult with his attorney with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him.” The issue of juvenile competency to stand trial began to emerge in the early 1990s amid a dramatic increase in violent offenses by juveniles. The article examines: factors involved in determining juveniles’ competency in criminal court; their understanding of the trial process and their ability to assist counsel; the law’s response to questionable competency; and lawyer response to youths’ incapacities.