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The difference between the insanity defense and competency

Both the insanity defense and a lack of competency to stand trial are related to a person's mental state, so some people make the mistake of thinking that they are pretty similar. The reality, though, is that they're very different.

A lack of competency basically relates to how a person feels right at the time of his or her trial. It could be that a mental condition makes it so that the person doesn't really understand what is happening. He or she may not be able to grasp what the charges are and what the result of the verdict will mean.

A person who is not competent to stand before the court isn't guilty, nor is he or she innocent. It just means the trial can't move forward at the current time because of that person's condition. Putting him or her in court could make the trial unfair, violating that person's basic right.

The insanity defense, on the other hand, has little to do with how a person feels going into the trial and everything with how they felt when the crime was committed. That person is claiming to have been out of his or her right mind at that time, so he or she does not want to be held responsible for what was done. The person could be perfectly fine during the trial, but the claim is that insanity struck earlier and led him or her to do things that would never have been done otherwise.

Naturally, both of these things could play into one case, but they are not the same.

When going to court in Colorado, be sure you understand all of your options when forming a defense and working with the court to ensure that the trial is fair.

Source: PBS, "Competency to Stand Trial," accessed June 30, 2015

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