Ohio to have new test for juvenile competency

People in the legal and psychological communities say new Ohio standards for determining whether juvenile defendants are competent will protect the children and mean less guesswork.

Lawyers, judges and clinicians currently use the same standards with children as they do when considering the competency of grown-ups. "Juvenile norms" are supposed to be applied, though there's nothing spelling out what that means.

The Columbus Dispatch reported that a new state law taking effect Sept. 30 provides psychologists and psychiatrists with four sets of characteristics to signal whether a juvenile is competent.

Children may be found competent only when they: grasp the seriousness of the charges; comprehend the adversarial nature of the court proceedings and the part the judge plays; can help with their defense; and can understand the potential consequences.

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