Wafeeq Sabir, Ph.D
Incompetency to stand trial in Texas is an illusionary concept for many youth offenders. The intricacy of the law continues to generate amendments from lawmakers each session. So, if age should be considered a deficiency that influences competency and culpability, at what age should a youth offender be sufficiently competent to stand trial as an adult?
Texas Criminal (2005) states a person is incompetent to stand trial if the person does not have:
(1) sufficient present ability to consult with the person's lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding; or
(2) a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against the person.
(b) A defendant is presumed competent to stand trial and shall be found competent to stand trial unless proved incompetent by a preponderance of the evidence (pg.447).
However, an individual who has been determined through a hearing, to be mentally ill or retarded, may be committed to a mental facility or maximum security unit that houses mental defendants. It may be determined at a later date that the defendant is competent to stand trial after proper restorative treatments. If this is the premise that determines whether a juvenile is sufficiently competent to stand trial, then age will always be of a subjective opinion. Texas Criminal (2005) suggests that an individual 14 years of age or older can be certified to stand trial as an adult. Under Texas law, a 10-year old offender is deemed criminally responsible. Lawmakers assert that this is an appropriate age of competency.
Texas criminal and traffic law manual (2005-2006 ed.). (2005). Charlottesville, VA: LexisNexis