How Effective is Rule 11 in Arizona Criminal Cases?


Rule 11 in Arizona can be used when a defendant is suspected of being mentally incompetent. The hearing is granted when there is substantial evidence of mental incompetence. Doctors make the decision on the competency of the accused to stand trial. There is some debate about how effective Rule 11 is in Arizona.

The high number of people with mental illnesses in Arizona prisons challenges notions that the rule is a wholly effective safeguard.

How effective is Rule 11

Rule 11 involves a medical examination

According to the American Council of Civil Liberties (ACLU), more than half of the people housed in Arizona’s prisons suffer from mental disorders.

Why is Rule 11 Failing to Keep Mentally Ill People out of Prisons?

The most important point about Rule 11 is it does not prevent people who suffer from mental illnesses from standing trial.

The US Supreme Court set out the scope of the rule in Dusky v. United States. In this important case, Dusky was charged with kidnapping and rape.

Dusky was a schizophrenic. However, he stood trial and was convicted. His lawyers argued he should not have been convicted because he was not competent to stand trial. The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back for a retrial in 1960.

The justices said to be competent to stand trial, a defendant must be able to rationally consult with his lawyer and have a rational and factual understanding” of the proceedings. The justices said a brief mental status exam alone was not enough.

While Rule 11 is important to people with mental illnesses who stand trial it does not prevent anyone who is mentally ill from being dealt with by the courts. A defendant must be unable to understand what’s going on or to advise his or her lawyer of how to proceed to be found incompetent.

Many people with mental illnesses are still aware of the proceedings and are able to consult with a lawyer.

However, in some cases, a defendant is not aware of the criminal process around him. It’s only fair for a full evaluation to be made at this point.

Rule 11 can be invoked for three situations – standing trial, entering the plea, or assisting a lawyer in their defense. The motion must also include the reasons why the party filing the motion believes the defendant’s competency may be an issue.

Although there has been some criticism of Rule 11 in the past by those who claim it allows people to ‘play’ the system many Rule 11 ‘revolving door’ claims were made many years ago.

The process is a thorough one that involves two doctors. At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney has considerable experience in Rule 11 cases. You can read more about the competency/Rule 11 on our website or call today at (602) 340-1999.


Posted in Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |