Defendants Incapability of Understanding the Proceedings
In the majority of jurisdictions the standard of competency for pleading guilty is identical to the competency standard for undergoing trial. See Godinez v. Moran, 509 U.S. 389, 396, n.5, 113 S. Ct. 2680, 2685, 125 L. Ed. 2d 321 (1993).
Specifically, the standard is whether the defendant has "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 396 quoting Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 403, 80 S. Ct. 788, 789, 4 L. Ed. 2d 824 (1960).
The Ninth Circuit, however, has a slightly higher standard than the one set forth in Dusky. In Sieling v. Eyman, 478 F.2d 211 (9th Cir. 1973), the court held that a person is incompetent to plead guilty "if a mental illness has substantially impaired his ability to make a reasoned choice among the alternatives presented to him and to understand the nature of the consequences of his plea." Id. at 214-15.
In United States v. Watley, 300 U.S. App. D.C. 177, 987 F.2d 841 (1993), the court found that the defendant's guilty plea was rendered involuntary by:
Incorrect information received by the defendant before and at the guilty plea hearing about the possible sentence;
The failure to advise the defendant about the peculiar interplay between the Sentencing Guidelines and statutory prescriptions, which made maximum and minimum sentences identical for use of firearm during a drug offense and for conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute. Id. at 183.