Juveniles Adjudicated Incompetentto Proceed: A Descriptive Studyof Florida's
A. McGaha, R. K. Otto, M. D. McClaren and J. Petrila,
Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
29(4): 427-437, 2001.
Although competence to stand trial is perhaps the most studied area of mental health
law, most of the research has been focused on adults. This study describes a population of 471
juveniles committed for treatment/habilitation and restoration of their competence to proceed in the
delinquency process. This population differed from their adult counterparts in important ways. For
example, 58 percent of the juveniles had a diagnosis of mental retardation, and 57 percent of the
juveniles with an Axis I diagnosis also had a diagnosis of conduct disorder. Only 17 percent had a
diagnosed psychotic disorder. Diagnoses among cohorts of adults found incompetent differ markedly.
However, similar to adult defendants who are adjudicated incompetent to proceed, the majority of
these children were returned to court after treatment staff determined that they were competent to
proceed. Contrary to expectation, there were no significant age-related differences with respect to
the recommendation of clinical staff regarding restoration of competence. The data suggest the need
for further research examining that subset of children in the juvenile justice system whose competence
to proceed is questionable.