Presented in part at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 22–27, 2010, in Seattle, WA.
PAPER PSYCHIATRY & BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES
Developmental Incompetence to Stand Trial in Juvenile Courts*
Article first published online: 2 MAR 2012
© 2012 American Academy of Forensic Sciences
Journal of Forensic Sciences
Volume 57, Issue 4, pages 989–996, July 2012
How to Cite
O’Donnell, P. C. and Gross, B. (2012), Developmental Incompetence to Stand Trial in Juvenile Courts. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 57: 989–996. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2012.02093.x
- Issue published online: 2 JUL 2012
- Article first published online: 2 MAR 2012
- Received 4 Feb. 2011; and in revised form 25 May 2011; accepted 12 June 2011.
- forensic science;
- competency to stand trial;
- psychiatry and behavioral sciences;
- forensic assessment
Abstract: Juveniles’ competency to participate in delinquency proceedings has received increased attention in recent years. Developmental incompetence, whereby juveniles’ incompetency is based upon their immaturity, as opposed to a mental disorder or developmental disability, is an evolving and important aspect of this area of law. The following paper reviews theories used to support the notion of developmental incompetence, as well as the extant empirical research on juveniles’ competency-related abilities. Using a LexisNexis search, statutory and case laws pertaining to juvenile competency were identified across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Only six states clearly allow developmental incompetence, whereas 17 have laws that do not include developmental immaturity as an acceptable basis of incompetence in juvenile courts. Developmental incompetence is likely to affect a relatively small proportion of juvenile cases, but has important implications for juvenile forensic practice. Recommendations are offered for forensic practitioners conducting this type of evaluation.