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DSM-5: Competencies and the Criminal Justice System 

DSM-5: Competencies and the Criminal Justice System
DSM-5: Competencies and the Criminal Justice System

Charles Scott

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date: 23 April 2021

Mental health professionals are frequently called upon to evaluate a criminal defendant’s ability to competently participate in one or more phases of the process of a criminal investigation, trial, sentencing, and/or appeal. Competence is a general term meaning the ability or capacity to understand a concept and rationally proceed through a decision-making process. This chapter reviews the evaluation of various criminal competencies, including competence to stand trial; to confess to a crime; to plead guilty; to waive counsel; to waive a jury trial; to testify; to waive extradition; to be sentenced; to waive appeals (and in capital cases) to be executed. Because competency to stand trial evaluations represent one of the most commonly ordered forensic evaluations in the United States, this chapter provides a detailed discussion of this specific competency. Potential implications of DSM-5’s diagnostic changes and new diagnoses on in regard to assessing a defendant’s competency are emphasized.

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