AZ RULE 11

You’ve likely heard of defendants in criminal cases pleaing based on their mental state. This is exactly what Rule 11 in Arizona is designed to protect. In the past, there were no laws in place that granted individuals the right to a mental health evaluation as part of their court proceedings. However, with the introduction of the Rule 11 mental competency laws, those who have reasonable grounds may request a mental health evaluation to help with their legal defense regarding the crime for which they are charged. It’s important to understand exactly what this rule does and why you need to consider it if you’re currently facing medical charges.

The Purpose of Rule 11

First and foremost, it’s important to understand the purpose of Rule 11. The goal of this law is to help the courts determine whether an individual is mentally competent enough to understand the charges they face and the implications of said charges. It’s the feeling of the court and the general public that defendants deserve to have some awareness of what they’re facing. Therefore, Rule 11 was created in order to protect these individuals and ensure they aren’t tried and endure a punishment for which they have no understanding. The whole purpose of the court system is to provide each individual with a fair process. If they lack a basic understanding of what’s going on, this defeats the purpose. However, in order to ensure this isn’t used in every case in an attempt to get out of the charges, reasonable grounds must be present. These reasonable grounds require sufficient evidence that indicates the individual may have mental deficiencies that prevent him or her from grasping the charges and their consequences.

If an individual is found to be mentally incompetent with a lack of understanding for the charges they face, they can’t be charged or go through a trial for a public offense, although there are some exceptions to this. When the testing conducted under Rule 11 indicates the individual suffers from a mental illness, disability or defect that prevents them from understanding their charges, other avenues must be taken in order to go through with the charges. This often involves being placed in a mental health facility for treatment instead. Rule 11 in Arizona falls in line with the rules that have been adapted by the federal Supreme Court.

The Process

If the court or the individual’s lawyer feels their client may be mentally incompetent, they have a right to request a mental evaluation, which stops the current court proceedings. It’s the responsibility of the court to ensure no one who may suffer from mental illness or defect is subjected to a trial before they go through a complete evaluation. However, a motion can’t be made until after the information is filed or an indictment is made. This is designed to prevent a defendant from using this motion to stall the court proceedings for a period of time when there is no need. It also protects against committing a defendant to a mental health facility prior to the establishment of probable cause, which could be detrimental to the case. The court may also request a preliminary evaluation prior to a full examination in order to establish the probable cause.

Another way for an individual to undergo a competency hearing is if the judge deems it necessary based on observations in the courtroom. During a hearing called a sua sponte, the judge can bring up the competency of the defendant and order a mental examination to be completed. If the judge notes behavior that could indicate a mental health issue that could affect the trial and doesn’t order a competency evaluation, it can negatively impact the case and his or her career because of each individual’s right to a fair trial.

What It Looks For

When a defendant undergoes a mental health evaluation to determine if they are mentally competent for trial, the physicians who perform the examination aren’t looking for a wide spectrum of mental health issues. Instead, they are looking for a small number of extremely specific factors that dictate whether an individual understands the charges they face and the potential consequences of those charges. The examination is designed to establish whether an individual isn’t currently of a mental state of mind to understand the legal process and the extent of what they face, as well as to aid the defense.

If you’re currently facing criminal charges and feel you may need the protection of Rule 11 mental competency laws, Dwane Cates Law Group can provide the guidance you need. We work hard to make sure our clients get the reliable representation they require in order to get a fair trial, regardless of what charges they may face.

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