Competency

Competency refers to basic abilities necessary to make certain decisions, and is a common issue that is raised in both civil and criminal legal proceedings that calls upon forensic psychologists and psychiatrists to conduct an in-depth psychiatric evaluation. Competency, in civil legal matters, refers to the capacity to make independent decisions and conduct legal and financial transactions on one's own behalf, such as testamentary capacity (e.g., completing and executing a will), contractual capacity, and medical decision making capacity. In the context of criminal justice proceedings, competency refers to a defendant’s capacity to meaningfully participate and make decisions during the criminal justice process. Competence is relevant at any stage of the process, from a defendant’s first words to arresting officers, through that defendant’s decision about pleas, until—in the gravest of cases—in capital case sentencing. The clinical team at FAF has conducted many competency evaluations in both civil and criminal terms, and provided robust testimony to support their findings.