Is a Six Year Old Legally Competent to Stand Trial

By: Valentina Quintero

Mental Competency to Stand Trial is Questionable in a Six Year Old

Only a few days into the new year when we had the first school shooting of 2023. This time the shooter was a 6 year old boy. Fortunately, the victim in this case, the shooter’s 25 year old 1st grade teacher survived the shooting and was able to safely escort the rest of the students out of the classroom. This case is so bizarre and confusing because of the age of the perpetrator of the crime. So many questions are still being unraveled in the investigation, such as how did he get the gun and who will be criminally charged for this incident, if anyone at all.

How does Incompetence To Stand Trial Work in Florida Criminal Courts

While it is possible for the 6 year old to be charged for this crime, he will most likely be deemed incompetent to stand trial. How exactly does that work and what does it mean? Any party involved in a criminal case, from misdemeanor to a felony, can raise a concern regarding the Defendant’s competency to stand trial. The Supreme Court case Dusky v. The United States gave defendants the right to have a competency evaluation done before proceeding to trial.

2 Elements To Meet To Be Determined Incompetent to Stand Trial In Florida Criminal Court

There are two key elements that needed to be proven in court in order for the six year old in this case to be deemed incompetent. 1.) The Defendant lacks the capacity to understand the proceedings against him or assist his attorney in their own defense. 2.)The Defendant lacks a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him. It would be very hard to prove that a six year old child has the intellect and mental capacity to understand both those points. Even if they do decide to press charges, there will be many legal boundaries and obstacles that would make for an unsuccessful prosecution. For instance, if the state decided to press charges against the 6 year old and he is to be found guilty, they would face more hurdles as Virginia’s minimum age to be held in state custody is 11 years old.

Ultimately,  it is bizarre to try and comprehend how a six year old had the malice and intention to purposefully bring a gun to school and shoot his teacher. In this case, it is more than likely that the parents will be facing criminal charges in the future for potential failure to secure the gun in a safe location, child neglect, and potentially other charges.

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