Competency to stand trial: Rationalism, "contextualism" and other modest theories

S. Jan Brakel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Determinations of competency to stand trial in criminal cases are complicated and rendered unpredictable by two sub-surface issues that are rarely articulated: (i) the place of the defendant's rationality in the substantive standard(s) for competency and (ii) the level or degree of incompetency required to stop the criminal process. The rare references to these issues, mostly indirect, that are made in the cases, commentary, and competency testing instruments devised (including those civil as well as criminal) are examined. The conclusion that emerges is that the level of capacity and rationality required of the defendant depends much on context - the type of case, its relative complexity, and the values and stakes implicated in the outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-295
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Sciences and the Law
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Law


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