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Name: In re R.V.
Case #: G046961
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 06/19/2013
Subsequent History: 9/25/13 revw granted (S212346)
Summary

Minor who failed to sustain burden of proving incompetence was competent to stand trial. During the minor’s Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 hearing on a petition that alleged he brandished a weapon and vandalized property, his counsel questioned minor’s competence to stand trial. The court suspended the proceedings and appointed an evaluator pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 709. The evaluator opined that minor was incompetent to stand trial, was confused about what was occurring, and lacked the capacity to cooperate with counsel in a meaningful way. The juvenile court did not accept the evaluator’s opinion, found that the minor had not sustained his burden to prove he was incompetent, found the minor competent, and reinstituted proceedings. The court found the petition true and declared the minor a ward of the court. On appeal, minor contended that the court erred by ruling that he bore the burden to prove incompetency, and, in the alternative, that there was no substantial evidence to support the court’s finding that he failed to meet his burden. The appellate court rejected the arguments and affirmed. The minor was presumed to be competent and bore the burden of proving incompetency. There is no reason to treat minors differently from adults for purposes of allocating the burden. Further, substantial evidence support the court’s finding that the minor was competent. The court was not under any obligation to adopt the doctor’s opinions. The court found that the minor’s statements reflected his understanding of the nature of the proceedings and charges against him. The court noted that the minor’s school believed that his delays may have been drug induced, and that his school testing did not show any delays. There were no other witnesses to support his claim of incompetence. Substantial evidence supported the court’s finding that the minor failed to meet his burden to demonstrate incompetence.