Juvenile Competency:
Determining Competency of a Juvenile to Stand Trial
Judge James R. Michie, Jr., Presiding Judge, Third District Juvenile Court
Susan Eisenman, Assistant Attorney General, State of Utah
Paul Smith, Director, Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD)
Doug Thomas, LCSW, Deputy Director, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH)
Joe Brusatto, LCSW, QIDP, Support Coordinator & Program Manager, DSPD
Amanda Alkema, LCSW, Juvenile Competency Program Manager, DSAMH
House Bill 393:
Juvenile Competency Amendments
During the 2012 General Session of the Utah State Legislature,
the Juvenile Court Act was amended regarding issues of
juvenile competency to participate in legal proceedings, which
created a new Juvenile Competency Statute in the form of
House Bill 393.
“This bill enacts standards and procedures for juvenile
competency proceedings, clarifies duties and responsibilities of
the Department of Human Services, defines terms, and makes
technical corrections” (State of Utah, 2012)
Legal Standard for Competency to Stand Trial
(Dusky v. 362 U.S. 402, 1960)
The Dusky Case established the standard for a criminal defendant to
be “competent to proceed”:
A defendant must have:
…sufficient present ability to consult with an attorney with a
reasonable degree of rational understanding…
…and a rational as well as a factual understanding of the
proceedings against them…
H.B. 393 extends the right to be “competent to proceed” to juveniles in
delinquency proceedings.
Competency Evaluation and Court Order
Initiating Motion for Competency Evaluation:
• Initial petition for inquiry into competency in delinquency proceedings may be
initiated by: minor alleged not competent to proceed; any person acting on the
minor’s behalf; prosecuting attorney; guardian ad litem; or any person having
custody or supervision over the minor. Utah Code Annotated (UCA) 78A-61301(3).
• Petition must raise a “bona fide” doubt as to Juvenile’s competency to proceed.
Juvenile Competency Evaluation Court Order :
• An order for DHS to perform a juvenile competency evaluation should be
separate or specified clearly in Court Order.
• Pursuant to UCA 78A-6-1302(6), the minor’s parents or guardian, the prosecutor,
defense attorney, and guardians ad litem, shall cooperate in providing the
relevant information and materials to the examiners.
• Court Order may include a request for prosecuting, defense and guardian ad
litem attorneys, parents/guardian or others acting on the minor’s behalf to submit
supporting documents to expedite the process.
Collateral Information
Pursuant to UCA 78A-6-1302(5), the petitioner or other party, as directed by
the court, shall provide all information and materials to the examiner relevant
to a determination of the minor’s competency including:
a) The motion;
b) The arrest or incident reports pertaining to the charged offense;
c) The minor’s known delinquency history information;
d) Known prior mental health evaluations and treatments; and
e) Consistent with 20 U.S.C. Sec. 1232G (b)(1)(E)(ii)(1), records pertaining
to the minor’s education.
In 2009, Kruh & Grisso noted, “The remedial analysis requires consideration of
developmental and mental health history, current mental status, information
regarding past responses to pharmacological and psychotherapeutic efforts to
reduce relevant symptoms, and the past responses to education interventions
(Grisso, 2005).”
Email all Competency Evaluation Court Orders and supporting documentation
pertaining to juvenile competency to: [email protected]
Assigning Forensic Evaluator
Competency Evaluation Orders are received by DHS and an evaluator will be
assigned by DHS within 48 hours upon receipt of the order and supporting
DHS contracts with forensic evaluators to provide the competency evaluation.
Pursuant to UCA 78A-6-1302(4), the minor shall be evaluated by a mental
health examiner with experience in juvenile forensic evaluations and juvenile
brain development and will be assigned by DSAMH. If it becomes apparent that
the minor may be not competent due to an intellectual disability or related
condition, the examiner shall be experience in intellectual disability or related
condition evaluations of minors and will be assigned by DSPD.
Pursuant to UCA 78A-6-1302(9), the evaluator’s written report shall inform the
Court of the evaluator’s opinion concerning competency and when found not
competent, the likelihood that the minor will attain competency within a year.
For evaluations, an initial report will be submitted to the court, prosecuting
attorney, defense attorney, and guardian ad litem 30 days from receipt of court
order by evaluator. If evaluator needs additional time they shall request
additional time from the Court and the Court may grant time extensions for
reasonable circumstances. DHS may contact defense or prosecuting attorney
for continuance.
Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Dept. of Health
Dept. of Human Services
Div. of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH)
Utah State Hospital
Local Mental Health and Substance Abuse Authorities
(13 County Authorities-LMHAs or LSAAs)
Ensure a comprehensive continuum of mental health and substance use
disorder services are available throughout the State
DSAMH contracts with local county governments who provide prevention,
treatment and recovery services in their Local Authority Area
… In SFY2012, 15,406 Children/Youth and 29,205 Adult Utahn’s received
treatment services for help related to a mental health disorder
… In SFY 2012, 1,489 Children/Youth and 15,537 Adult Utahn’s received
treatment services for help related to a substance use disorder
Utah State Hospital; Beds are Allocated to the LMHA, there are 22 Children’s
Beds, 50 Adolescent Beds, 152 Adult Beds, 100 Adult Forensic Beds and 5
Acute Short Stay Adult Rural Beds
Division of Services for People with Disabilities
Dept. of Health
Dept. of Human Services
Div. of Services for People w/Disabilities (DSPD)
Utah State Developmental Center
State-wide Contracted Providers
Meet the basic health, safety and service needs for 4,985 Utahns with severe
through three Medicaid Waiver programs, one Non-Medicaid program and
through the State Developmental Center (USDC)
… 4,436 Utahns with intellectual disabilities or related conditions, received
services in the Community Supports Medicaid Waiver
… 131 Utahns in the Physical Disabilities Medicaid Waiver
… 108 Utahns in the Acquired Brain Injuries Medicaid Waiver
… 103 Utahns with disabilities in the Non-Medicaid program (including 70
Utahns with intellectual disabilities or related conditions, 25 Utahns with
physical disabilities, and 8 Utahns with acquired brain injuries)
… 207 Utahns received 24 hour support at the Utah State Developmental
Determining Competency to Stand Trial:
Factual and Rational Understanding of…
Juveniles must have knowledge and the ability to apply concepts of the trial
process with a rational and factual understanding.
Pursuant to Utah Code Annotated (UCA) 78A-6-1302(7), In conducting the
evaluation and in the report determining if a minor is competent to proceed
as defined in Subsection 78A-6-105(3), the examiner shall consider mental
disorder, intellectual disability, or related condition on a minor’s present
capacity to:
a) Comprehend and appreciate the charges or allegations
b) Disclose to counsel pertinent facts, events, or states of mind
c) Comprehend and appreciate the range and nature of possible
penalties, if applicable that may be imposed in the proceedings against
the minor
d) Engage in reasoned choice of legal strategies and options
e) Understand adversarial of nature of the proceedings
f) Manifest appropriate courtroom behaviors; and
g) Testify relevantly, if applicable
Court Finding on Competency:
Competent or Not Competent
In 2009, Kruh & Grisso noted, “the examiner must assist the court in determining whether to
pursue remediation efforts... available evidence suggest that judges rely heavily on the
opinions of juvenile evaluators to reach their ultimate competency to stand trial
a) Competent (CMP): Competent to Proceed
- Court shall proceed with the delinquency proceedings
b) Not competent – not attainable (NCA): Not Competent WITHOUT a substantial
probability that the minor will attain competency in the foreseeable future
- Court shall terminate competency proceeding, dismiss the delinquency
charges without prejudice
c) Not competent – attainable (ATT): Not Competent WITH a substantial
probability that the minor will attain competency in the foreseeable future
- Court shall order “Attainment” and Department of Human Services will
provide attainment services
Juvenile Competency Attainment Process
For Juveniles Found “Not competent With a Substantial Probability of Attainment”
Attainment orders are made when the Court finds the minor is not
competent to proceed and the minor is likely to attain competency within 1
year, reviews every 90 days. Reports will be submitted to the Court and
appropriate parties 3 days prior to review hearing.
Email all Court Orders pertaining to juvenile competency to:
[email protected]
According to Utah Code 78A-6-1303(4)(b), during the attainment period the
minor will remain in the least restrictive appropriate setting. Court cannot
order DCFS, DHS or DSPD custody solely based on incompetency.
A Juvenile Competency Attainment Provider will be assigned and
attainment plan will be developed within 30 days and attainment services
At the 6 month review, if the minor has not attained competency and
reasonable progress is being made, the Court may order an additional 6
months of attainment.
If the minor has not attained competency at the one year review, the Court
is obligated to terminate competency proceedings and dismiss the charges
without prejudice.
Utah Attainment Curriculum for Trial
Competence (ACTC)
ACTC was developed by the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah
State University.
ACTC is to assist juvenile defendants attain competency to stand trial
ACTC consists of 10 modules with a wide range of activities with the
flexibility to adapt activities to fit the learning style and cognitive capacity of
individual clients. There are sample activities designed to be made easier
or more complex with minor adjustments.
– Module 1: Why Am I Here? Understanding Attainment for Trial
– Module 2: Lawyers, Defense Attorneys, and Prosecutors
– Module 3: The Juvenile Justice System
– Module 4: What am I charged with? (allegations)
– Module 5: What could happen to me?
– Module 6: My Side of the Story
– Module 7: Telling My Side of the Story
– Module 8: How Do I Defend Myself
– Module 9: Testifying
– Module 10: How Do I Act in Court?
Court Ordered Juvenile Competency Evaluations
H.B. 393 Statistical Report 5/8/12 to 4/1/13
40 Court Ordered Juvenile Competency Evaluations
– Intellectual Disability - 12 Cases
– Mental Disorder – 25 Cases
– Related Condition – 0 Cases
– Intellectual Disability & Mental Disorder – 3 Cases
30 Completed Cases
– Court Found Minor Competent to Stand Trial: 11
– Court Found Minor Not Competent-Not Attainable: 16
– Court Found Minor Not Competent-Attainable: 3
• 3 cases court found juvenile competent to proceed after receiving attainment
10 Pending Cases
– Competency Evaluations in Progress: 4
– Pending Court Finding on Competency: 4
– Attainment Services in Progress: 2
Email all Court Orders and supporting
documentation pertaining to juvenile
competency to:
[email protected]
If you have any questions or concerns about the juvenile competency process
please contact:
Amanda Alkema, LCSW
Juvenile Competency Evaluation and Attainment Program Manager
Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health
PH: (801) 538-4471
[email protected]
Kruh, I., & Grisso, T. (2009). Evaluation of Juveniles’ Competence to Stand Trial (pp.186195). New York: Oxford.

Juvenile Competency Evaluation Court Order