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The Difference Between Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity And A Defendant's Competence In Ohio

Although many people confuse these two concepts, a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity ("NGRI") is vastly different from a finding that a defendant is not competent to stand trial. Per the Ohio Revised Code, "[a] person is "not guilty by reason of insanity" relative to a charge of an offense only if the person proves, in the manner specified in section 2901.05 of the Revised Code, that at the time of the commission of the offense, the person did not know, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, the wrongfulness of the person's acts." Therefore, an NGRI finding does not take into account a defendant's current mental state; it only considers the Defendant's mindset at the time of the offense. 

Alternatively, in order for a defendant to be found incompetent, the court must find "by a preponderance of the evidence that, because of the defendant's present mental condition, the defendant is incapable of understanding the nature and objective of the proceedings against the defendant or of assisting in the defendant's defense." Thus, regardless of the defendant's mental state at the time of the offense, competency to stand trial simply focuses on the defendant's current mental status.

If a defendant is found to be NGRI, then the trial court must determine whether the defendant should be subject to continued supervision to address the underlying mental disease or defect. If the court deems supervision appropriate, then it is to order the defendant to be supervised in the least restrictive environment available that appropriately balances the public's safety and the welfare of the defendant. A defendant is subject to supervision, assuming the court continues to find supervision necessary, for as long as the maximum sentence he or she was facing on the most serious underlying criminal charge. Thus, if the defendant was charged with a fifth degree felony and two first degree misdemeanors, then he could be supervised for up to one year as it is the maximum sentence on the felony, the most serious underlying charge.

If a defendant is found not competent to stand trial, then the court can order the defendant to be reassessed after a year has passed. During that year the defendant can be required to undergo treatment in an attempt to restore him or her to competency. Similar to an NGRI finding, a defendant is to remain in the least restrictive setting during this period. If a defendant cannot be restored to competency and if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant is in need of treatment and committed the underlying offense, then the defendant is subject to court supervision until or unless (1) the court determines that the defendant is no longer in need of treatment, (2) the expiration of the maximum prison term the defendant could have received if convicted of the most serious offense charged, or (3) the court determines that the defendant is competent to stand trial and is no longer in need of treatment.

In deciding whether to explore an NGRI defense or a challenge to competency, it is important that a Defendant has an experienced defense attorney by his or her side to assist with these challenges. 

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