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The Supreme Court has long considered competency to be a right of the criminal defendant in court In many areas insanity has been a criminal defense with a significant history However in the early part of this century adult protections including the competency requirement and common defenses like insanity were not added into the juvenile court system Because juvenile courts were established to protect juveniles from the rigors of adult court and punishments in adult facilities states focused on achieving proceedings more compatible with juveniles needs Over the last decade many state legislatures have offered better options and procedures for handling delinquent juveniles Many states have also extended their juvenile codes for not only the welfare of the child but for the safety of the community and the protection of the rights of the victims Moreover many states have also amended their transfer qualifications so that only the most serious of crimes are tried in adult court As a result the competency requirement and the insanity defense have gained renewed importance The issue of juvenile competency began to form in the early 1990s from a dramatic increase in violent offenses by juveniles A juvenile offender can be technically classified as incompetent for a number of reasons developmental immaturity mental illness too young or in the state of emotional shock A criminal defendant MUST be capable of meaningful participation in his defense and must be able to make decisions such as exercising or waiving important rights Further the criminal defendant must posses the ability to understand the charges the trial process other participants roles in the trial and his or her rights Current research shows that by ages 13 and 14 the average youth tends to have a basic idea of the roles of people in the trial process Likewise they can understand that defendants are charged with offenses and that the consequences can be serious Also it is around this age when youths
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