(Received 4 March 1972; accepted 20 June 1972)
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Defendants considered under the influence of drugs have usually been found to be mentally incompetent to stand trial. In recent years the advent of psychopharmaceuticals in treatment of the mentally ill has created a number of interesting questions for psychiatry and law. How should the mentally ill defendant under the influence of psychotherapeutic drugs be considered? How mentally impaired should such a defendant be in order to be considered mentally incompetent to stand trial? What legal standards apply? Does the standard for level of competency differ, if the defendant is on psychopharmaceuticals? If his mental impairment has improved under the influence of drugs, should these drugs be removed in order for him to demonstrate his capacity for mental competency without drugs? If so, how long should such a drug-free period be before his return to trial? Should he be denied the right to stand trial while still under the influence of such drugs? If he relapses into mental illness after psychotherapeutic drugs have been discontinued, how does this affect his mental competency to stand trial? If he demonstrates that he requires ongoing medication for continued suppression of his impairing symptoms, can he then be returned to trial while under the influence of these drugs? For how long a period of time on drugs during which time he demonstrates mental competency to stand trial should he be considered mentally incompetent to stand trial? And finally, what trends are visible in the psychiatric and legal literature that predict the future direction of psychiatry and law in answering these questions?
Professor of psychiatry and director, Institute of Psychiatry and Law, School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif.
Assistant professor, School of Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry and Law, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif.
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