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When Can a Defendant Be Found Incompetent to Stand Trial in Illinois?

 Posted on January 15, 2021 in Criminal Defense

Joliet criminal defense lawyerWhen someone is charged with a crime, a number of things can happen within the criminal justice system. Typically, the defendant is arrested and read his or her rights, which includes the right to an attorney. In Illinois, a person may be eligible for bail depending on the severity of the alleged crime. Certain cases can also result in a trial, with a judge and a jury. You may have heard the phrase “incompetent to stand trial” from watching a movie or crime drama on television. What exactly does it mean to be found “incompetent” and how is this different from an individual being found not guilty by reason of insanity? Can mental illness prevent a defendant from being convicted of a criminal offense in Illinois? 

Mental Illness and Criminal Cases

Research shows that in the United States, approximately one in five adults live with a mental illness (51.5 million people in 2019). This type of illness can vary in degree of severity, ranging from mild to moderate to severe. Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are a few of the most common mental illnesses that individuals experience. 

In general, a defendant who claims to have a mental illness would undergo psychiatric exams and evaluations by healthcare professionals in order to assess his or her mental health and competency. Simply having a mental illness does not prevent someone from being charged or convicted of a crime. In addition, it is not the same thing as being found not guilty by reason of insanity, which is a plea where the defendant claims that he or she was so mentally incapacitated at the time of the offense that he or she did not intend to commit the crime, and thus is not guilty.

In order to be found incompetent to stand trial, the following factors must apply:

  • A defendant is unable to understand the nature of the charges against him or her because of an intellectual disability or psychosis

  • A defendant is unable to make rational decisions or participate in his or her own defense  

When a defendant is deemed incompetent to stand trial, he or she will usually receive psychiatric treatment in an effort to regain his or her competency. In some scenarios, legal proceedings against the defendant may resume if the defendant reasonably understands the charges levied against him or her, the nature of the criminal offense, the possible punishments, and his or her legal options.

Contact a Joliet Criminal Defense Attorney

One bad decision or mistake can lead to criminal charges in Illinois. However, an alleged offender may be found incompetent to stand trial in certain situations, but this is not the same as being found not guilty by reason of insanity. McNamara Phelan McSteen, LLC provides high-quality legal representation with proven success in a variety of criminal matters. Our experienced Will County criminal defense lawyers will build a strong defense strategy on your behalf while protecting your rights. To schedule a free consultation, call our office today at 815-727-0100.  





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