Juvenile Competency in Delinquency Hearing
On January 2, 2013, Governor Snyder signed juvenile competency legislation, ensuring that children who stand accused of crimes are competent to participate in their court hearings. The long-awaited standards will strengthen constitutional protections for kids and provide a roadmap for courts.
Under the new law, a child can only be processed in juvenile court if he can adequately understand the roles of various courtroom personnel and the court process, and make reasonable decisions regarding his own case. Before this law, Michigan courts inconsistently defined juvenile competency and had no common set of qualifications for juvenile forensic evaluators. As a result, mentally ill children awaiting a delinquency hearing could be placed in detention indefinitely.
The new juvenile competency law draws heavily from scientific research that examines how kids understand and react differently in court compared to adults. By recognizing developmental differences, courts will be better equipped to deliver rehabilitative programs specifically geared toward kids and teens.
Effective March 28, 2013, the new law will:
- Establish a presumption of incompetence for any child under age 10, and a process for attorneys to raise competency for kids 10 and older in juvenile court;
- Require that examiners have experience and expertise in child and adolescent forensic evaluations; (and requires them to use the JACI or similarly approved instrument);
- Require the least restrictive environment while awaiting and conducting evaluations; and
Create an avenue for restoration before prosecution proceeds, or (in some cases) mental health services if unable to be restored.
Juvenile Competency Fact Sheet
Adolescent Legal Competence in Court
Webinar Resources: Juvenile Competency in Michigan Courts