California Expert on Competency to Stand Trial

When determining whether competency to stand trial exists, often the courts consult psychotherapists. A medical professional’s point of view pertaining to the mental health and decision-making ability of adults can be valuable for the defense counsel when preparing for trial. This is a crucial step in striking the proper balance between being able to conduct a thorough examination and being able to receive reliable testimony that could result in a conviction.

Dr. Stacey Wood can help you determine if your client possesses the competency to stand trial. Dr. Wood is a leading neuropsychologist licensed in California and Washington State. An accomplished academic with deep experience in a variety of legal proceedings including death penalty cases, Dr. Wood is an ideal fit for your firm. 

Board Certified in Geropsychology

20+

Years of experience

500+

Expert Analysis

40+

Trials and Depositions

Competency to Stand Trial in California

 

Under California Penal Code section 1368, the court may appoint an expert to assist in determining whether a reasonable doubt of competency to stand trial exists. Performing an interview and a full assessment of an individual’s ability to understand helps attorneys identify if the defendant is competent to stand trial.

The legal standards under California Penal Code section 1367 must be satisfied in order to initiate competency proceedings in a criminal case. Consulting with  a forensic neuropsychologist with expertise in mental capacity, such as Dr. Stacey Wood, is a powerful asset to any legal team working on competency to stand trial motion.

Dr. Wood’s Competency to Stand Trial Experience

Dr. Wood has extensive experience assessing, researching , and testifying about competency to stand trial. She is a leading researcher, expert witness, and scholar in the areas of forensic neuropsychology, decisional capacity, and mental capacity. Dr. Wood has consulted on competency issues for legal teams in California and across the country including death penalty cases and cases involving criminal charges against older defendants.

A comfortable and clear communicator in court, Dr. Wood provides value beyond tremendous credibility as a true member of your team with the ability to assist in the whole process. See Dr. Wood’s curriculum vitae here. 

Contact a proven trial competency expert for your next case.

Why choose Dr. Wood for competency to stand trial matters?

Unfortunately, there are a variety of factors that may decrease one’s mental health including diseases like Alzheimer’s Condition or specific medicines and professional treatments that have the potential to affect cognition. These often require a competency evaluation to determine the defendant’s ability to stand trial.

There are many reasons a defense attorney should choose Dr. Wood to determine a defendant’s competence. One is that a qualified doctor of psychology like Dr. Wood will use a range of assessment procedures including an examination when working with defense counsel. When performed and explained by an experienced doctor, this process may help identify an issue of competency to stand trial.

Competency and Capacity Expert

Dr. Wood is a competency and capacity expert with a focus on decisional capacity, which makes her an excellent complement to your legal team. In court, there is a vital difference between capacity and competency.

Capacity refers to the ability to make decisions. The term is generally used in reference to individuals that have a “mental illness.” It is also often used for those experiencing age-related mental degeneration.

Competency represents the ability to understand questions, differentiate importances, and make logical decisions. A person who can not recognize potential consequences is rarely competent to stand trial.

Identifying the distinction between the two can be complex, and a competency to stand trial expert in California can offer tremendous worth. Dr. Wood can help you understand the medical evidence and conduct evaluations. Plus, she has the skills and experience to communicate this in court to non-experts, such as jury members.

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Well-balanced Courtroom Experience

Dr. Wood has courtroom experience in a wide range of criminal and civil proceedings. Based in California, Dr. Wood has provided expert decision and competency analysis to legal teams across the country on a variety of cases.

When establishing the mental health of patients, clinical psychologists are equipped to use standard forms and thorough procedures to assist attorneys to determine who to put on the stand. Dr. Wood is a forensic neuropsychology specialist with over 20 years of experience in performing examinations and presenting her findings in court.

Lead Editor of ABA Handbook on Capacity

Dr. Wood is a leader in the psychology academia but has also been called up by the American Bar Association to serve as Lead Editor and major contributor on guides for lawyers on issues of diminished capacity and competency.

Interested in working with Dr. Wood on a competency to stand trial case?

Featured Information

Decisional Capacity

Decisional capacity is a general term that can be defined as “a threshold requirement for persons to retain the power to make decisions for themselves.”
 

Probate Conservatorship

Probate conservatorship proceedings in California, a judge appoints a conservator to care for another adult who cannot care for him/herself or his/her finances.

Elder Abuse

 
Dr. Stacey Wood is one of the nation’s leading experts on financial elder abuse and fraud.
 

Testamentary Capacity

In California, the legal standard for creating a will has two components: the testator must be 18 years of age and of “sound mind,” which means possessing testamentary capacity.
Dr. Stacey Wood

Dr. Stacey Wood

Molly Mason Jones Professor of Psychology, Scripps College. Board certified in geropsychology.

Curriculum Vitae

My scholarly interests are in the areas of neuropsychology and decision-making from a lifespan development perspective. I am interested in how changes in the brain, emotion, and motivation interact across the lifespan to influence how we make decisions. I am especially interested in taking theoretical work and applying it to everyday types of decisions. One such application is in the area of assessing decision-making capacity for the courts. An understanding of cognitive mechanisms that may underlie specific types of legal decisions (i.e. testamentary, financial) can help us to design better tools and be more effective as witnesses.

Contact Dr. Wood Today

Molly Mason Jones Professor of Psychology; Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Washington State and CA.

Phone: (909) 706-2764
Email: swood@scrippscollege.edu
Curriculum Vitae: View Here
Connect with Dr. Wood on LinkedIn

Competency to Stand Trial: Extended Information

Competency to Stand Trial Definition California

Under California law, “competency to stand trial,” means that an offender can not be tried or convicted of a criminal offense if they have the following characteristics:

  • The offender is unable to comprehend what is taking place in court
  • The offender has a chronic mental illness or disability
  • The accused can not rationally participate in his or her own defense
  • The accused suffers a medical condition or trauma that caused a temporary mental break

This can be found in California Penal Code § 1367(a).

California Penal Code, Section 1367

California Penal Code, Section 1367 deals with an inquiry into the competence of a defendant before trial or after conviction regarding doubt about the mental competence of the defendant. The Section’s full text can be read below:

(a) A person cannot be tried or adjudged to punishment or have his or her probation, mandatory supervision, postrelease community supervision, or parole revoked while that person is mentally incompetent. A defendant is mentally incompetent for purposes of this chapter if, as a result of mental disorder or developmental disability, the defendant is unable to understand the nature of the criminal proceedings or to assist counsel in the conduct of a defense in a rational manner.

(b) Section 1370 shall apply to a person who is charged with a felony or alleged to have violated the terms of probation for a felony or mandatory supervision and is incompetent as a result of a mental disorder. Section 1370.01 shall apply to a person who is charged with a misdemeanor or misdemeanors only, or a violation of formal or informal probation for a misdemeanor, and the judge finds reason to believe that the defendant is mentally disordered, and may, as a result of the mental disorder, be incompetent to stand trial. Section 1370.1 shall apply to a person who is incompetent as a result of a developmental disability and shall apply to a person who is incompetent as a result of a mental disorder, but is also developmentally disabled. Section 1370.02 shall apply to a person alleged to have violated the terms of his or her postrelease community supervision or parole.

(Amended by Stats. 2014, Ch. 759, Sec. 1. Effective January 1, 2015.)

California Penal Code, Section 1368

(a) If, during the pendency of an action and prior to judgment, or during revocation proceedings for a violation of probation, mandatory supervision, postrelease community supervision, or parole, a doubt arises in the mind of the judge as to the mental competence of the defendant, he or she shall state that doubt in the record and inquire of the attorney for the defendant whether, in the opinion of the attorney, the defendant is mentally competent. If the defendant is not represented by counsel, the court shall appoint counsel. At the request of the defendant or his or her counsel or upon its own motion, the court shall recess the proceedings for as long as may be reasonably necessary to permit counsel to confer with the defendant and to form an opinion as to the mental competence of the defendant at that point in time.

(b) If counsel informs the court that he or she believes the defendant is or may be mentally incompetent, the court shall order that the question of the defendant’s mental competence is to be determined in a hearing which is held pursuant to Sections 1368.1 and 1369. If counsel informs the court that he or she believes the defendant is mentally competent, the court may nevertheless order a hearing. Any hearing shall be held in the superior court.

(c) Except as provided in Section 1368.1, when an order for a hearing into the present mental competence of the defendant has been issued, all proceedings in the criminal prosecution shall be suspended until the question of the present mental competence of the defendant has been determined.

If a jury has been impaneled and sworn to try the defendant, the jury shall be discharged only if it appears to the court that undue hardship to the jurors would result if the jury is retained on call.

If the defendant is declared mentally incompetent, the jury shall be discharged.

(Amended by Stats. 2014, Ch. 759, Sec. 3. Effective January 1, 2015.)

What is the Distinction between Insanity and Competency to Stand Trial?

Although these terms have different meanings, one way to understand their variance is that competency to stand trial is determined by a judge, while insanity is determined by a jury.

Ruth Lee Johnson, J.D., writing for Psychology Today explains “Competency is determined by whether the defendant can understand the nature and consequences of the criminal proceedings against him. Specifically, the Supreme Court has held that the defendant must (1) have the sufficient present ability to consult with his or her lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding; and (2) he or she must have a rational as well as a factual understanding of the proceeding against him or her.

Meanwhile, the definition of insanity varies between states, and concerns the criminal acts allegedly committed by the defendant. (Read this blog post to learn about the different definitions of insanity.) For example, some states determine insanity by whether the defendant understood the nature and quality of his acts or did not know that his acts were wrong. Other states have different definitions. Some states do not have an insanity defense at all.”

Contact neuropsychologist and forensic expert Dr. Stacey Wood to better understand how she can help you and your client.

Contact Information

Dr. Stacey Wood, Ph.D.
Molly Mason Jones Professor of Psychology; Licensed Clinical Psychologist, CA.

Phone: (909) 706-2764
Email: swood@scrippscollege.edu
Connect with Dr. Wood on LinkedIn

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