In New Jersey, if a criminal defendant lacks the ability to understand the crimes the State alleges the defendant committed or the consequences he or she faces if convicted, the defendant may be held unfit to stand trial. When a defendant’s competency is questioned the State must prove numerous factors for the defendant to be found competent, as discussed in a recent New Jersey case in which the defendant was charged with kidnapping and attempted sexual assault. If you are charged with kidnapping or a crime of violence, it is wise to meet with a knowledgeable New Jersey criminal defense attorney to analyze your potential defenses.
The Alleged Crime
It is reported that the defendant was charged with kidnapping and attempted aggravated sexual assault. The defendant had a competency hearing, after which he was found competent to stand trial. Shortly prior to trial, however, he struck his head and began exhibiting concerning behavior. The defendant’s attorney requested a second competency hearing, but the request was denied. A jury convicted the defendant, after which he appealed arguing, in part, that the court erred in denying the second competency hearing.
Competency to Withstand Trial Under New Jersey Law
Under New Jersey law, if a defendant lacks the capacity to understand criminal proceedings against the person, or to assist in his or her own defense, the defendant cannot be tried, convicted, or sentenced, during the time the incapacity exists. As such, a competency hearing must be held when evidence is produced that raises a bona fide question as to a defendant’s competence.