JCST Juvenile Competence Legislative Guide

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Issue: JCST Juvenile Competence Legislative Guide


State courts may be impacted by state legislation creating juvenile competence to stand trial legislation.


No formal position.


The University of Massachusetts Medical School’s National Youth Screening and Assessment Project developed a legislative guide to assist states that are considering or amending statutes related to juvenile competence to stand trial (JCST).  The underlying issues are (1) whether juveniles can/are able to participate in their own defense and (2) the decision-making capacity of juvenile, which research shows, is still developing. 

The guide is divided into four Modules.

1. Definitions of Competence to Stand Trial

2. Procedural Issues

3. Competence Evaluations by Mental Health Examiners

4. Remediation and Legal Disposition of Incompetent Juveniles

Key recommendations in the guide address the following issues.

1. Psychological “Predicates” or Underlying Reasons for a Finding of Incompetence

2. Legal Protections in the Evaluation Process

3. Protection Against Self-Incrimination

4. Qualifications of the Examiner

5. Location of the Evaluation

6. Time Limits for Evaluation;

7. Content of the Evaluation and Report

8. Remediation Services

Provision of Services in the Event that Incompetence Cannot be Remediated


The National Youth Screening and Assessment Project, part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change Initiative began distributing the guide, Developing Statutes for Competence to Stand Trial in Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings: A Guide for Lawmakers to state legislators in April 2012.  The full document can be downloaded at www.modelsforchange.net/publications/330.