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LEGAL DICTIONARY

Competent

What Does Competent Mean?

In legal terms, a competent individual is someone who has the ability to make rational decisions, participate in legal proceedings, and understand the nature and consequences of their actions.

Both federal and state laws dictate that a defendant must be deemed competent in order to stand trial for a criminal charge. In this case, competency includes understanding the charges involved in the case.

Since the sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a fair trial to any citizen charged with a crime, competency is integral to that right. In other words, someone who is incompetent may not understand the charges brought against them and may not be able to help in their own defense.

What Happens If a Defendant Appears to Be Incompetent Before or During a Trial?

If a defendant displays incompetency, the trial is suspended. The judge then will call for a competency hearing. If the findings of the hearing are that the individual is competent, the trial resumes. If the results demonstrate incompetency, the defendant must receive treatment at a psychiatric facility.

Later on, it may be deemed that the individual is competent again. The trial can be rescheduled for a date after the defendant regains competence. Otherwise, the individual must continue with their psychiatric care.

Here are some other legal terms that are associated with competency.

  • Incapacitated. This term describes someone who has a mental or physical deficiency that makes them unable to participate in court proceedings.
  • Criminal capacity. This term is used to describe a defendant who is of sound mind for a trial and may be found guilty of committing a crime.
  • Legal custody or guardianship. This term describes someone who has the legal right to make decisions regarding the health and well-being of a minor. Competency is required for this legal contract.
  • Sound mind. This term stands for a state of mind that allows for clear reasoning and decision-making.
  • Power of attorney. Someone must be considered competent (or of sound mind) in order to assign their power of attorney as a binding contract with another individual or entity.
  • Last will and testament. Competency (and a sound mind) is also an essential component of creating and signing a last will and testament and a living will.

What Are Some of The Standards for Being Competent?

Some of these legal standards for competency include:

  • An appropriate orientation to time, place, person, and situation
  • The ability to concentrate
  • Short- and long-term memory
  • Ability to communicate with others
  • Recognition of familiar objects or people
  • Ability to understand quantities
  • Ability to reason logically
  • Ability to reason with abstract concepts
  • Ability to plan and carry out actions in one’s own interest

What Are Other Examples of Being Competent?

The term “competent” also can apply to employment. In this scenario, competencies are desirable qualities that a potential employee possesses, not necessarily job skills. While job skills can be learned, competencies are inherent abilities an individual already has.

These types of competencies typically fall into three broad categories.

  • Behavioral
  • Technical
  • Leadership

These frameworks are often a part of employee recruitment and employers’ assessment procedures.

Helpful Resources:

Cornell Law - Competent

Justia - Competency to Stand Trial for Criminal Defendants

Sacramento County Law Library - Determining Competency to Sign a Durable Power of Attorney

TheLaw.com - Definition of LEGALLY COMPETENT

AA - Rule 1.1: Competence

What Does Competent Mean?

In legal terms, a competent individual is someone who has the ability to make rational decisions, participate in legal proceedings, and understand the nature and consequences of their actions.

Both federal and state laws dictate that a defendant must be deemed competent in order to stand trial for a criminal charge. In this case, competency includes understanding the charges involved in the case.

Since the sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a fair trial to any citizen charged with a crime, competency is integral to that right. In other words, someone who is incompetent may not understand the charges brought against them and may not be able to help in their own defense.

What Happens If a Defendant Appears to Be Incompetent Before or During a Trial?

If a defendant displays incompetency, the trial is suspended. The judge then will call for a competency hearing. If the findings of the hearing are that the individual is competent, the trial resumes. If the results demonstrate incompetency, the defendant must receive treatment at a psychiatric facility.

Later on, it may be deemed that the individual is competent again. The trial can be rescheduled for a date after the defendant regains competence. Otherwise, the individual must continue with their psychiatric care.

Here are some other legal terms that are associated with competency.

  • Incapacitated. This term describes someone who has a mental or physical deficiency that makes them unable to participate in court proceedings.
  • Criminal capacity. This term is used to describe a defendant who is of sound mind for a trial and may be found guilty of committing a crime.
  • Legal custody or guardianship. This term describes someone who has the legal right to make decisions regarding the health and well-being of a minor. Competency is required for this legal contract.
  • Sound mind. This term stands for a state of mind that allows for clear reasoning and decision-making.
  • Power of attorney. Someone must be considered competent (or of sound mind) in order to assign their power of attorney as a binding contract with another individual or entity.
  • Last will and testament. Competency (and a sound mind) is also an essential component of creating and signing a last will and testament and a living will.

What Are Some of The Standards for Being Competent?

Some of these legal standards for competency include:

  • An appropriate orientation to time, place, person, and situation
  • The ability to concentrate
  • Short- and long-term memory
  • Ability to communicate with others
  • Recognition of familiar objects or people
  • Ability to understand quantities
  • Ability to reason logically
  • Ability to reason with abstract concepts
  • Ability to plan and carry out actions in one’s own interest

What Are Other Examples of Being Competent?

The term “competent” also can apply to employment. In this scenario, competencies are desirable qualities that a potential employee possesses, not necessarily job skills. While job skills can be learned, competencies are inherent abilities an individual already has.

These types of competencies typically fall into three broad categories.

  • Behavioral
  • Technical
  • Leadership

These frameworks are often a part of employee recruitment and employers’ assessment procedures.

Helpful Resources:

Cornell Law - Competent

Justia - Competency to Stand Trial for Criminal Defendants

Sacramento County Law Library - Determining Competency to Sign a Durable Power of Attorney

TheLaw.com - Definition of LEGALLY COMPETENT

AA - Rule 1.1: Competence