Amanda Bynes – Competent to Be Tried for DUI?

Actress Amanda Bynes failed to appear in court on Tuesday, according to the Huffington Post, because her DUI attorneys claim that she is not fit to stand trial.

The actress has been under a doctor’s care since July. In past news, she is alleged to have set fire to a driveway and was put on a mental health hold for 72 hours before being housed in an inpatient facility for 30 days.

What does it mean to be incompetent to stand trial? In Colorado, the case most frequently cited is People v. Mondragon, 217 P.3d 936 (Colo. App. 2009). In Mondragon, the Colorado Appellate Court sets forth the procedure when a defendant in a criminal case asserts that he or she is incompetent to stand trial. A court must hold a hearing to determine if the defendant is competent to proceed, and the party asserting the incompetency has the burden of submitting evidence and the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that if the prosecution asserts the incompetency, the government must prove it. More often than not, it is the defendant that asserts it, and therefore his or her defense attorneys that must assert it.

According to Colorado law, “a defendant must have ‘a sufficient present ability to consult with his counsel with a reasonable degree of rational understanding, and a present rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against him.’” Id., citing People v. Morino, 743 P.2d 49, 51 (Colo. App. 1987). A defendant lacks the requisite rational understanding if he does not have “a sufficient contact with reality”, i.e., “if his mental condition precludes him from perceiving accurately, interpreting, and/or responding appropriately to the world around him.”

While not in Colorado, the DUI case of Amanda Bynes is interesting and brings up issues dealing with mental competency in criminal cases.