New York CPL 710.10 - Interpretation

In People v. Mendez (1 NY3d 15, 801 N.E.2d 382, 769 N.Y.S.2d 162 [2003]), the Court of Appeals held that the test for competence is set forth in CPL 710.10(1), which provides that an "incapacitated person" is defined as "a defendant who, as a result of mental disease or defect, lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense" (CPL 730.10[1]). The Court further held that "for purposes of due process, the United States Supreme Court has explained that the defendant must have sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding-- and...a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him'" (id. at p. 19, citing Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 80 S. Ct. 788, 4 L. Ed. 2d 824 [1960]). Factors to be considered in determining competence include whether the defendant: "(1) is oriented as to time and place; (2) is able to perceive, recall and relate; (3) has an understanding of the process of the trial and the roles of Judge, jury, prosecutor and defense attorney; (4) can establish a working relationship with his attorney; (5) has sufficient intelligence and judgement to listen to the advice of counsel and, based on that advice, appreciate (without necessarily adopting) the fact that one course of conduct may be more beneficial to him then another; (6) is sufficiently stable to enable him to withstand the stresses of the trial without suffering a serious or prolonged or permanent breakdown" (see, People v. Picozzi, 106 AD2d 413, 414, 482 N.Y.S.2d 335 [2nd Dept 1984]). See also, People v. Valentino, 78 Misc 2d 678, 356 N.Y.S.2d 962 [1974]. Finally, the Mendez Court found that the People bear the burden of proving competency "by a preponderance of the evidence" (id.; see also, People v. Troy, 28 AD3d 689, 817 N.Y.S.2d 289 [2d Dept 2006], leave denied, 7 N.Y.3d 852, 857 N.E.2d 76, 823 N.Y.S.2d 781 [2006]).