June 11, 2015

New Law Allows Juvenile Justice Competency Evaluations

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With passage of a new law, Oklahoma has become the last state to allow juveniles in the criminal justice system to undergo competency evaluations.

On Friday, Gov. Mary Fallin signed Senate Bill 457 into law. That bill requires that if there is suspicion that a child facing a delinquency petition in the juvenile justice system does not understand the proceedings or is unable to assist in his or her defense, the child may be declared incompetent and the proceedings halted until competency is restored.

A child could be considered incompetent because of developmental immaturity, an intellectual disability or mental illness.

If a child in the juvenile justice system is believed to be incompetent, a forensic evaluator would examine the child to determine whether the child is fit to go through the legal proceedings, and if not, whether competency can be restored.

This development follows a previous story by Oklahoma Watch. Prior to Senate Bill 457 being signed, Oklahoma was the only state in the nation that did not have competency requirements for juveniles facing delinquency petitions.