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What Does it Mean if a Criminal Defendant Is Found Incompetent?

 Posted on January 12, 2021 in Criminal Defense

Milwaukee County criminal defense attorney

If you have been involved in the criminal justice system or even watched police television shows like Law & Order, you may have heard the phrase “incompetent to stand trial.” What exactly does it mean if a criminal defendant is “incompetent” and how does this differ from a person being found not guilty by reason of insanity? Can mental illness alone prevent someone from being charged and convicted of a criminal offense in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin Man Charged with Homicide Found Not Competent to Stand Trial

In July of last year, a retired police officer and former marine was riding his motorcycle when he was struck and killed by a pickup truck. The driver of the pickup truck, a 27-year-old Wisconsin man of Mexican descent, allegedly told responding officers that he had intentionally caused the fatal accident and targeted the motorcyclist because he was Caucasian. Because the incident was intentional and based on race, the driver of the pickup truck was charged with first-degree homicide with a hate crime enhancer.

The alleged offender reported being harassed by neighbors and co-workers because of his race. He said that he could hear neighbors talking about him through the walls and even accused others of poisoning him. The man stated that he wanted to go to prison so that he could escape the racially charged harassment.  The 27-year-old criminal defendant then underwent two psychiatric exams in order to assess his mental health and competency. Just recently, a Fond du Lac County judge determined that the instigator of the fatal accident is not mentally stable enough to stand trial. The suspect has since been committed to a mental health facility.  

When Does Mental Illness Prevent Someone from Being Convicted of a Crime?

Millions of Americans suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Simply having a mental illness does not prevent someone from being charged or convicted of a crime. In order to be found incompetent to stand trial, a criminal defendant must be:

  • Unable to understand the nature of the charges against him or her – typically due to intellectual disability or psychosis

  • Unable to make rational decisions or assist in his or her own defense  

Being found incompetent to stand trial is much different than being found not guilty due to insanity. If a defendant is not competent enough to stand trial, he or she will receive psychiatric treatment intended to restore competency. Legal proceedings against the defendant may resume if the defendant gains a reasonable understanding of the charges against him or her, the nature of the offense, the potential penalties, and his or her legal options.

Contact a Milwaukee County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one have been charged with a violent crime, the penalties can be severe, and that is why you need an aggressive legal advocate by your side. Contact a qualified Jefferson County criminal defense lawyer from Bucher Law Group, LLC. Call our office today at 262-303-4916 to arrange a free, confidential consultation.





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