Developmental Incompetence to Stand Trial in Juvenile Courts

Philip C. O'Donnell*, Bruce Gross

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Juveniles' competency to participate in delinquency proceedings has received increased attention in recent years. Developmental incompetence, whereby juveniles' incompetency is based upon their immaturity, as opposed to a mental disorder or developmental disability, is an evolving and important aspect of this area of law. The following paper reviews theories used to support the notion of developmental incompetence, as well as the extant empirical research on juveniles' competency-related abilities. Using a LexisNexis search, statutory and case laws pertaining to juvenile competency were identified across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Only six states clearly allow developmental incompetence, whereas 17 have laws that do not include developmental immaturity as an acceptable basis of incompetence in juvenile courts. Developmental incompetence is likely to affect a relatively small proportion of juvenile cases, but has important implications for juvenile forensic practice. Recommendations are offered for forensic practitioners conducting this type of evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)989-996
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Competency to stand trial
  • Development
  • Forensic assessment
  • Forensic science
  • Juveniles
  • Psychiatry and behavioral sciences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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