When Should An Attorney Have Their Client Evaluated By A Psychologist And Clear Any Doubts As To Their Client’s Competency?
This issue comes up a lot in the Los Angeles courthouses. What ends up happening is a defense attorney has a client who they don’t feel confident with as far as being able to understand the court processes that are going on to be able to help the attorney in relation to the case, and basically have a client who has some sort of a mental issue that they feel like it’s not fair that they should be prosecuted at this time because it’s going to be a huge disadvantage to that particular defendant not being able to talk to their attorney in a sane manner; not being able to answer questions; not being able to testify if they had to; not being able to discuss the case with their attorney so the attorney can figure out exactly what’s going on from their perspective.
Sometimes an attorney, when they start talking to the client and are evaluating what the client is saying, what the evidence looks like – sometimes clients are just not happy with the evidence and they don’t like it. That’s not a time to do a motion in reference to their client’s competency. But, if the client is talking crazy and doesn’t really seem to get what’s going on with them and is not in touch with reality, that’s a time where the attorney needs to start questioning whether a Penal Code Section 1368 motion needs to be given to the judge. Usually, the judges are going to grant those motions. They may ask some questions. They may say, counsel do you feel like you and your client are communicating? Do you feel like your client can assist in his own defense? Tell me why you think that I should declare a doubt as to this particular defendant’s sanity and send that defendant to be evaluated.
Once they do that, they’re going to send them here in Los Angeles to Department 95. They’re going to be evaluated and eventually, they’re going to make a decision as to whether or not proceedings are just simply going to be suspended against that particular defendant until they get their mind together, or they’re going to say, this guy’s fine. He can be tried in the case and if he wants to fight it, he or she can. If they want to try to work out a deal, they do have the wits about them to be able to help their counsel and understand exactly what’s going on.
That’s another crucial thing. The defendant has to understand what’s going on in a criminal case in Los Angeles. If they don’t get what’s going on; if they are in a position where they have some mental issues and sometimes a defense attorney can do their own private evaluation of the defendant – not have to rely on the county, and then when you get that private evaluation, if that particular psych says, your client has some issues counselor, you need to get him or her evaluated, I don’t think they can help in their defense. I don’t think they understand what’s going on and they shouldn’t go to trial. They shouldn’t do a preliminary hearing. They shouldn’t even enter a plea in the case. They don’t even get what’s happening with him. They don’t totally understand the criminal process, and yes, some people can fake this. I don’t know why you would fake it, because ultimately, they’re not just going to let you go. They’re going to wait until you’re okay to go to trial and then you’re going to end up going to trial anyway unless you want the witnesses to forget the case or somehow not be available when the case comes back up. I guess that could be some defendant’s strategy, but most of the time when I see attorneys declaring a doubt as to their client’s competency, it’s legitimate. The client has just lost touch with reality – whether they’re using drugs, whether they have some sort of a mental issue – there’s all sorts of reasons why.
The bottom line is an attorney has to be on the look-out for this type of stuff to make sure that their client’s rights in Los Angeles are protected and that the attorney makes the right moves for the client at the right time.
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