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Name: Bryan E. v. Superior Court
Case #: B256172
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 7
Opinion Date: 10/27/2014
Summary

Juvenile court erred when it found 13-year-old minor competent to stand trial without considering his ability to consult with counsel and help prepare a defense. A Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 petition was filed in juvenile court alleging that the 13-year-old minor committed assault with a deadly weapon and assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury. A psychologist who assessed the minor’s competency noted that he had a mental disorder and lacked the ability to consult with his counsel and assist in preparing his defense. He lacked an understanding of the charges against him, and was not sure exactly why he was in court. The juvenile court found the minor competent to stand trial, concluding that there had not been a substantial showing that the minor lacked the ability comprehend the court proceedings. The minor filed a petition for a writ of mandate to compel the juvenile court to vacate the order finding him competent. Held: Petition granted. Juvenile competency proceedings are governed by Welfare and Institutions Code section 709, and a minor may be found incompetent if he lacks sufficient present ability to consult with counsel and assist in preparing a defense. The applicable standard of proof of incompetency is preponderance of the evidence. Here, it appeared that the juvenile court applied the standard of competency applicable to adults under Penal Code sections 1367 and 1368, which is different than the competency standard in juvenile proceedings. Additionally, there was no indication that the juvenile court used a preponderance of evidence standard (instead using a substantial evidence standard), and no finding regarding the minor’s ability to consult with counsel or assist in preparing a defense. The juvenile court was directed to vacate the competency order and apply the standards set forth in section 709.