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Abstract

Although the competency requirement is rooted in notions of fairness and due process, a defendant who raises competency in New Mexico often faces a cruel irony: an extended deprivation of liberty without the benefit of trial. The current procedure for determining competency is confusing and complex, which contributes to delays in making competency determinations and ultimately to delays in resolving criminal matters. The Ad Hoc Committee on Rules for Mental Health Proceedings is working on revisions to the rules for competency. Proposed revisions were published in 2016. This article traces the development of the competency doctrine, analyzes the current procedure, and provides a critique of the proposed rules that focuses on simplifying the initial process to reduce extended pretrial incarceration when competency is raised. Another version of proposed revisions will be published in March of either 2018 or 2019, and the author encourages those with knowledge and interest to read and provide feedback about the revisions. Although it is unlikely that any rule can fully accommodate all of the competing interests that are implicated when competency is raised, public comment is essential so that the rule can be adjusted to best protect defendants’ rights and meet the goals of the criminal justice system.

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