COURT COMPETENCY 

EVALUATIONS

1368 PC & 1370.01 PC for ADULTS

SERVING BAY AREA COURTS

Dr. Ryan Dunnigan

Forensic Psychologist

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CRIMINAL COURT PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATIONS

California Penal Code Section 1367 (a) –  The California standard for competency to stand trial indicates that a person cannot be tried or adjudged to punishment 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.

1368 PC COMPETENCY EVALUATIONS

AND REPORTS FOR ADULT DEFENDANTS

Competency to stand trial is a concept of jurisprudence allowing the postponement of criminal proceedings for those defendants who are considered unable to participate in their defense on account of mental or physical disorder or intellectual disability (retardation).  Accordingly, Dr. Ryan Dunnigan's services are retained by the Courts or by representing attorneys.  He conducts a file and records review, including mental health records and police and legal reports, consults with the attorneys, and then conducts a forensic face-to-face interview of the adult defendant in order to determine if the defendant has the present ability to:

  • Understand his/her current legal situation.*

  • Understand the charges against him/her.

  • Understand the facts relevant to his/her case.

  • Understand the legal issues and procedures in his/her case.

  • Understand legal defenses available in his/her behalf.

  • Understand the dispositions, pleas, and penalties possible.

  • Appraise the likely outcomes.

  • Appraise the roles of defense counsel, the prosecuting attorney, the judge, the jury, the witnesses, and the defendant.

  • Identify and locate witnesses.

  • Relate to defense counsel.

  • Trust and to communicate relevantly with his/her counsel.

  • Comprehend instructions and advice.

  • Make decisions after receiving advice.

  • Maintain a collaborative relationship with his/her attorney and to help plan legal strategy.

  • Follow testimony for contradictions or errors.

  • Testify relevantly and to be cross-examined if necessary.

  • Challenge prosecution witnesses.

  • Tolerate stress at the trial and while awaiting trial.

  • Refrain from irrational and unmanageable behavior during the trial.

  • Disclose pertinent facts surrounding the alleged offense.

  • Protect himself/herself and utilize the legal safeguards available to him/her.

        *  List of Items Relevant to Competency to Stand Trial (Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry) from Melton, et al. (2007)

             Psychological Evaluation for the Courts:  A Handbook for Mental Health Professionals and Lawyers. Third Edition.

 

Upon completing the information review and the interview process, Dr. Dunnigan then submits a written forensic psychological evaluation report addressing Competency to Stand Trial or Fitness to Stand Trial, which includes:

  • The underlying bases for any diagnoses (mental disability or impairment);

  • A description of mental disability or impairment, if any, and the severity of any disability, defect or impairment;

  • An opinion on whether and to what extent the mental disability, defect or impairment impairs the defendant’s ability to understand the nature and purpose of the proceedings against him and/or to assist in his defense. 

  • The issues of potential malingering (exaggerating or feigning symptoms of mental disability/ impairment / disorder) will be evaluated.

  • If it was opined that a person was incompetent to stand trial, the potential for restoration to competency will be addressed.  Expert testimony is also provided when necessary in competency to stand trial cases.

 

Dr. Dunnigan can also testify in court on pretrial issues such as Competency to Stand Trial or Fitness to Stand Trial, Police Procedures, Threat & Dangerousness Analyses, and Law Enforcement and Acute & Chronic Stress Responses.