Adjudicative Competence: The MacArthur Studies: 15 (Perspectives in Law & Psychology)


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Each of these three sections provides clinicians with specific questions that tap into different areas involved in competency. Each item is rated on a 3-point scale ranging from no impairment to definite or serious impairment. The Interdisciplinary Fitness Interview IFI was designed to assess both the legal and psychopathological aspects of competency Golding et al.

The original IFI comprised three major sections assessing legal issues, psychopathological issues, and an overall evaluation of competency. The IFI was revised Golding, and in its current form, the Interdisciplinary Fitness Interview-Revised taps 31 relatively specific psycholegal abilities organized into 11 global domains, addressing issues such as the iatrogenic effects of psychotropic medications Riggins v. The original IFI collected data from defendants interviewed by a two-person team, composed of a lawyer and either a psychologist or a social worker, and found high agreement about their final opinions of competency Golding et al.

Some items require the defendant to visually identify the location of certain participants in the courtroom i. Each defendant is asked about the nature of the charges that he or she is facing, how the defendant would assist his or her lawyer, the nature of his or her relationship with the lawyer, and the consequences of a guilty verdict.

The CAST-MR comprises 50 verbally administered questions that assess basic legal concepts, skills to assist defense, and understanding of case events. Items are scored based on the ability of the individual to relate information about his or her case in an accurate and understandable manner.

The CST has 22 item stems that ask defendants to complete sentences. Although the CST appears to be a reliable instrument Nicholson et al. Prior to Jackson v. Indiana , incompetent defendants would automatically be sent to a treatment facility for an indefinite period of time until competency was restored. This practice was challenged in Jackson. Theon Jackson, who was deaf and mute and could not read or write, was charged with two robberies and found incompetent due primarily to his inability to communicate and also his intellectual deficits.

Treatment staff reported that his condition precluded his understanding the nature of charges against him and participating in his defense, and stated that there was no treatment that could help Jackson learn minimal communication skills. Although the Court did not indicate how a reasonable period of time should be defined or progress toward regaining competency could be assessed, the decision made clear that if these two conditions were not met, the defendant would have to be released unless civil commitment was an appropriate alternative.

The duration of confinement varied from state to state, with some states providing maximum time limits e. The Jackson decision raises the issue of whether it is possible to predict which incompetent defendants are unlikely to be restored. Mossman gives an example of a line of research that addresses this issue. He examined a sample of incompetent defendants in a restoration program and found that a number of factors were associated with a low probability of restoration, including a longstanding psychotic disorder, a diagnosis of mental retardation, and older age.

However, the limited research has produced mixed results. Incompetent defendants are typically sent to residential forensic facilities, although outpatient treatment is an option Miller, Almost all incompetent defendants are returned to court within a year, with only a small percentage found to be unresponsive to treatment and thus not restorable.

Because many defendants are found incompetent due to a psychosis, psychotropic medication is the most frequent type of treatment. The use of medication raises the question of whether an incompetent defendant can refuse to consent to being medicated. The issue reached the U. Supreme Court in the case of Sell v.

Charles Sell was a dentist who was charged with fraud and attempted murder. He had a history of mental illness and although initially found competent, he later deteriorated and was found to be incompetent. He refused to consent to treatment, and the treatment facility attempted to force medication involuntarily. Sell appealed and the appellate court held that medication was necessary because he was dangerous to himself or others and medication was likely to restore competence.

Juvenile Adjudicative Competence

The use of psychotropic medication has been shown to be effective in restoring competence, as evidenced by the high rate of restoration noted. An interesting question is whether involuntary medication would also prove effective in restoring competence. One concern about restoring competence through medication is that defendants who are found competent and are proceeding with their criminal cases may discontinue taking medications. This was the case in Miles v. Stainer , in which a defendant was considered competent but only if he continued to take antipsychotic medication.

The Appeals Court held that the trial court erred because it was not aware that jail records indicated that the defendant had stopped taking his medication two weeks before entering a plea. Less intrusive forms of treatment include legal rights education, deficit-focused remediation programs, and standard hospital treatment programs Bertman et al. Unfortunately, there is little research on the effectiveness of various treatment approaches. One of the first to examine an education-focused approach, Siegel and Elwork found that incompetent defendants randomly assigned to an educational program that provided information on the legal process as well as problem-solving training showed significantly greater improvement on competency assessment instrument scores compared to a control group.

Incompetent defendants with intellectual deficits fare more poorly in restoration programs. Competency to participate fully in the defense of his or her criminal case is an essential right of a defendant to ensure a fair trial. The vast majority of defendants are competent to understand the charges against them, appreciate the legal consequences, make decisions about how to proceed with their cases, and able to communicate rationally with their attorneys.

It is important, however, that mental health professionals are able to reliably and validly inform the court about the competency of defendants whose competence has been questioned by their lawyers, the prosecution, or the court. This article has provided an overview of forensic assessment instruments that have been developed to guide this process. For defendants found incompetent, treatment is usually successful in restoring competence and allowing them to return to court and proceed with the resolution of their cases. Differences between defendants declared competent or incompetent to stand trial.

Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law , 40 , 89— The effect of competency restoration training on defendants with mental retardation found not competent to proceed. Law and Human Behavior , 26 , — Effect of an individualized treatment protocol on restoration of competency in pretrial forensic inpatients. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law , 31 , 27— The competence of criminal defendants: Behavioral Sciences and the Law , 10 , — Adjudicative competence and youthful offenders.

A developmental perspective on criminal justice pp. University of Chicago Press. The significance of combining evaluations of competency to stand trial and sanity at the time of the offense. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law , 21 , 50— The relationship between criminal charges, diagnoses, and psycholegal opinions among federal pretrial defendants. Behavioral Sciences and the Law , 19 , — Law and Human Behavior , 37 , — An investigation of discrepancies between mental health professionals and the courts in decisions about competency. Law and Psychology Review , 28 , — Evaluation for capital sentencing.

A handbook for lawyers pp. Missouri , U. United States , U. A second validation study of the competence assessment for standing trial for defendants with mental retardation CAST-MR. Criminal Justice and Behavior , 22 , 44— Competence assessment for standing trial for defendants with mental retardation. The emerging standard of competence in immigration removal proceedings: A review for forensic mental health professionals. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law , 21 , 60— Moran , S. Learning forensic examinations of adjudicative competency. Research and practice pp. Assessment and conceptualization of competency to stand trial: Preliminary data on the Interdisciplinary Fitness Interview.

Law and Human Behavior , 8 , — Field reliability of competence to stand trial opinions: How often do evaluators agree, and what do judges decide when evaluators disagree? Law and Human Behavior , 36 , — Forensic assessment and instruments 2d ed. Identifying persons feigning limitations in their competence to proceed in the legal process. Evaluations of trial competency and mental state at the time of the offense: Research and Practice , 26 , 61— Attorney-client decisionmaking in criminal cases: Client competence and participation as perceived by their attorneys.

Development and validation of a research instrument. Law and Human Behavior , 21 , — International Journal of Forensic Mental Health , 2 , — Edwards , U. Indiana , U. United States , F. The bench and bar respond. Journal of Psychiatry and Law , 23 , — American Journal of Psychiatry , , — Juveniles adjudicated incompetent to proceed: Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law , 29 , — Competency to stand trial and mental illness.

National Institute of Mental Health.


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  • Competency to Stand Trial in the American Legal System;
  • Reward Yourself.
  • Die fair value-Bilanzierung als Katalysator und Beschleuniger der Krise (German Edition).

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Stainer , F. Hospitalization of criminal defendants for evaluation of competence to stand trial or for restoration of competence: Clinical and legal issues. Behavioral Science and Law , 21 , — State hospital competence restoration in Indiana. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law , 36 , — Predicting restorability of incompetent criminal defendants. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law , 35 , 34— Clinician variation in findings of competence to stand trial.

Psychology, Public Policy, and Law , 14 , — Individual and situational influences in criminal and civil contexts pp. Outcome of hospitalization for defendants found incompetent to stand trial. A comparison of instruments for assessing competence to stand trial. Law and Human Behavior , 12 , — Competent and incompetent criminal defendants: A quantitative review of comparative research. Psychological Bulletin , , — Psychological Assessment , 10 , — Forensic reports and testimony: A guide to effective communication for psychologists and psychiatrists.

Robinson , U. Moran , Colin Ferguson, and the trial of mentally disabled criminal defendants. Behavioral Sciences and the Law , 14 , 61— Where two roads met: Restoration of competence to stand trial from a clinical perspective. A meta-analytic review of competency to stand trial research. Psychology, Public Policy and Law , 17 , 1— Competency to stand trial: A historical review and some new data. Journal of Psychiatry and Law , 8 , — The Competence Screening Test: A replication and extension.

Competency to Stand Trial

Criminal Justice and Behavior , 8 , — Nevada , U. Social worker assessments of competency to stand trial.

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Law and Human Behavior , 14 , 57— In sum, findings suggest that future orientation partially mediates the relationship between age and reasoning and also between age and appreciation. Further, future orientation was found to moderate the relationship between intellectual ability and appreciation, indicating that the relationship between intelligence and this aspect of adjudicative competence varies depending on a youth's level of psychosocial maturity.

The present study first examined the direct effects of age, intellectual ability, psychiatric symptomatology, and future orientation on adolescents' competency-related abilities. Congruent with previous research, age and intellectual ability were both positively related to competence.

In This Article

Further, the development of an orientation to the future was found to be significantly positively related to an adolescent's competence. In contrast to previous research in adult populations that shows a strong negative association between psychiatric symptomatology and competence, 13 only small effects were detected in the present study linking psychiatric symptomatology and competence. Expanding on previous research which has consistently documented a positive association between age and competence, the present study found that this association is partially explained by the development of an orientation to the future.

In addition, while future orientation was found to moderate the association between intellectual ability and competence, it did not influence the modest relation between psychiatric symptomatology and competence. In demonstrating that the development of an orientation to the future partially mediates the relationship between age and competence, the present findings shed an explanatory light on this relationship that forensic evaluators might consider when assessing juvenile competence to stand trial.

Within the framework of the conceptual model of Grisso, 20 the evaluation of an adolescent's future orientation may represent a causal factor contributing to deficits in the adolescent's psycholegal abilities, thereby informing the evaluator's prognosis for competency restoration. In addition, the present findings support the expansion of the predicate conditions often necessary, either implicitly or explicitly, for adult defendants that narrowly focus on cognitive deficits or severe psychopathology.

Further, in finding that future orientation moderated the relationship between intellectual ability and competence, the present findings carry important implications for immature youth entering the justice system. Not only do these cognitive limitations exert a substantial effect on the competency-related abilities of these youth, but combined with the effects of immaturity these factors appear to be particularly detrimental to these youths' capacity to proceed. For the forensic evaluator, these finding suggest caution is warranted in interpreting how a particular score on an intelligence measure might translate into competency-related abilities.

Specifically, these findings suggest that evaluators are likely to reach the most accurate conclusions concerning the role of intelligence when it is considered in the context of an adolescent's psychosocial maturity. From a treatment perspective, restoration programs attempting to compensate for these pervasive cognitive limitations would do well to use concrete learning strategies tailored to individuals with cognitive limitations to bring these defendants up to speed legally. While the present findings regarding the role of future orientation on juvenile competence to stand trial begin to delineate the mechanisms responsible for the well-documented association between age and competence, they are not without several limitations.

First, given that detained adolescents evincing acute psychological distress were screened out of the present study, the weak findings linking psychiatric symptomatology and competence should be interpreted cautiously. That is, because of the artificially circumscribed range of psychiatric symptomatology, it would be premature to draw firm conclusions regarding the influence of psychiatric symptomatology on juvenile competence.

That said, given that severe psychiatric disorders typically do not manifest until late adolescence or early adulthood, it is also possible that youthful defendants simply do not tend to experience psychiatric symptoms of the severity that often result in findings of incompetence for adult defendants e. Second, it should be noted that future orientation is but one of many aspects of psychosocial maturity.

While an underdeveloped ability to consider future consequences has been shown to be related to antisocial decision-making, 14 the present findings are the first to demonstrate the role of future orientation on adolescent defendants' decision-making in the context of competency to stand trial. Future research should continue to examine how other aspects of psychosocial maturity, such as risk orientation and resistance to peer influence, may influence juveniles' decision-making in legal contexts.

Despite these limitations, the present findings provide support for the consideration of psychosocial maturity in evaluating juveniles' adjudicative competence.

Ronald Roesch

While several states e. Under the adult standard emphasizing mental disease or defect, a defendant who is free of severe psychiatric symptomatology and not cognitively deficient is generally presumed to be competent. As the present findings suggest, however, this does not appear to be adequate for youthful defendants given that normal immaturity alone can exert a significant impact on competency-related abilities.

As the juvenile justice system continues to shift toward a more punitive approach to youthful offenders and the state is given greater leeway to pursue harsher sanctions, it becomes the responsibility of researchers to expose the impact of these changes to the light of scientific scrutiny and to continue to inform the legal system of the empirical basis surrounding the prosecution of youthful offenders.

We only request your email address so that the person you are recommending the page to knows that you wanted them to see it, and that it is not junk mail. We do not capture any email address. Skip to main content. Research Article Regular Article. Kivisto , Todd M. Moore , Paula A. Fite and Bruce G. Abstract The current study examined the direct, indirect, and interactive effects of age, intellectual ability, psychiatric symptomatology, and future orientation on juvenile adjudicative competence utilizing a secondary sample of youth from the MacArthur Juvenile Adjudicative Competence Study.

Juvenile Adjudicative Competence In the first published study of juvenile adjudicative competence, Savitsky and Karras 8 found that age was significantly associated with performance on a brief competency screening measure, with results indicating that year-olds were, as a group, not competent to stand trial, and that to year-olds were found to be less competent trial defendants than adults.

Development and Decisional Competence While Bonnie's 19 emphasis on decisional competence was not intended explicitly for juvenile defendants, this construct is increasingly being recognized as essential to the evaluation of juveniles' adjudicative competence. The Present Study While early research examining the competence of juvenile defendants has consistently pointed to a positive association between age and competency-related abilities, 12 , 29 , 30 the mechanisms accounting for this relationship have only recently begun to be explored. Methods The present sample was collected as a secondary sample from the MacArthur Juvenile Adjudicative Competence Study with permission from the original authors, 29 and use of this data was approved by the institutional review board IRB at the University of Tennessee.

Participants and Sites Participants included detained youth and youth recruited from the community. Measures Participants provided demographic information regarding age, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Measure of Future Orientation The Judgment in Legal Contexts JILC instrument 21 was designed to assess youth and adult decision-making in the context of the legal circumstances that frequently face defendants.

Results Preliminary Results The means, correlations, and standard deviations of all observed study variables are presented in Table 1 and mean performances by age and sample are presented in Table 2. View inline View popup. Indirect Effects of Age on Competence It was hypothesized that future orientation would partially explain the association between age and reasoning, but not between age and understanding or age and appreciation.

The Fragility of Competence We also hypothesized that the competence of adolescents who were less future oriented would be more vulnerable to the effects of cognitive impairment and psychiatric symptomatology. Discussion The present study first examined the direct effects of age, intellectual ability, psychiatric symptomatology, and future orientation on adolescents' competency-related abilities.

Limitations, Strengths, and Conclusions While the present findings regarding the role of future orientation on juvenile competence to stand trial begin to delineate the mechanisms responsible for the well-documented association between age and competence, they are not without several limitations. Footnotes Disclosures of financial or other potential conflicts of interest: Forensic Evaluation of Juveniles.

Professional Resource Press , Psychological Evaluations for the Courts: Guilford Press , United States, U. In re Gault, U. In re Causey, So. Savitsky JC , Karras D: Competency to stand trial among adolescents. Cowden V , McKee G: Competency to stand trial in juvenile delinquency proceedings: J Fam Law Competency to stand trial in preadjudicatory juveniles and adults.

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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law The competence of adolescents as trial defendants. Psychol Public Policy Law 3: Juveniles' understanding of trial-related information: Behav Sci Law Nicholson R , Kugler K: Competent and incompetent criminal defendants: Cauffman E , Steinberg L: Im maturity of judgment in adolescence: Crime, competence, and culpability: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates , , pp — Steinberg L , Cauffman E: Maturity of judgment in adolescence: Law Hum Behav Evaluating adolescent decision making in legal contexts.

Researching juveniles' capacities as defendants, in Youth on Trial. Edited by Grisso T , Schwartz R. University of Chicago Press , , pp — The competence of criminal defendants: Forensic Assessments and Instruments ed 2. Judgment in Legal Contexts Instrument, unpublished manuscript , Curr Dir in Psychol Sci Adjudicative competence and youthful offenders, in Youth on Trial: A Developmental Perspective on Criminal Justice. University of Chicago Press , , pp 73 — Furby M , Beyth-Marom R: Future time perspective in adolescence: J Youth Adolesc How do adolescents see their future?

Age differences in future orientation and delay discounting. Psychological, neuropsychological, and psychophysiological correlates of serious antisocial behavior in adolescence: Juveniles' competence to stand trial: Correlates of adjudicative competence among psychiatrically impaired juveniles. Developmental aspects of judgment and competence in legally relevant contexts.

University of Virginia , Juveniles' Waiver of Rights: Legal and Psychological Competence. Plenum Press , The competence-related abilities of adolescent defendants in criminal court. Snyder H , Sickmund M: Juvenile Offenders and Victims: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention , Four Factor Index of Social Status.

Department of Sociology, Yale University , Psychological Assessment Resources , The MacArthur adjudicative competence study: Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence Manual. Psychological Corporation , Grisso T , Barnum R: University of Massachusetts Medical School , Massachusetts youth screening instrument for mental health needs of juvenile justice youths.

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Adjudicative Competence: The MacArthur Studies: 15 (Perspectives in Law & Psychology) Adjudicative Competence: The MacArthur Studies: 15 (Perspectives in Law & Psychology)
Adjudicative Competence: The MacArthur Studies: 15 (Perspectives in Law & Psychology) Adjudicative Competence: The MacArthur Studies: 15 (Perspectives in Law & Psychology)
Adjudicative Competence: The MacArthur Studies: 15 (Perspectives in Law & Psychology) Adjudicative Competence: The MacArthur Studies: 15 (Perspectives in Law & Psychology)
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