Competency for Criminal Trial in Colorado
The U.S. Constitution guarantees each citizen the right to a fair trial, which includes the right to be present at the trial, able to understand the nature of the proceedings, and able to participate in his or her defense. Whether the defendant’s mental health impaired his or her ability to know right from wrong during the alleged commission of a crime is a separate issue. When the issue of fitness for trial (competency) is raised, Colorado law requires the court to order a competency exam. This issue brief describes the roles and processes of Colorado courts and the Department of Human Services (DHS) in addressing competency.