Incapacity to Proceed (G.S. Chapter 15A) and Incompetency (G.S. Chapter 35A): Apples and Oranges?

Incapacity to proceed under North Carolina General Statutes (G.S.) Chapter 15A and incompetency proceedings under G.S. Chapter 35A involve, at least in part, a court inquiry into someone’s cognitive abilities. Incapacity to proceed is narrowly focused on a person’s cognition within a criminal legal proceeding. Incompetency is a bigger picture analysis, more broadly focused on the individual’s life and needs, with a bit of forward-looking involved. In that way, incompetency is concerned with both a person’s cognitive abilities and their functioning.

These proceedings are separate and distinct from one another. Yet, if a client has history or present involvement in both, the client’s attorney in one proceeding should know about and understand the other. That attorney may want, for example, to access information or introduce evidence from the other proceeding. The attorney will want to consider issues such as information sharing and confidentiality, and the admissibility or other uses of records from one proceeding in the other.

These issues may be the subject of future posts. First, however, we need to understand incapacity to proceed under G.S. Chapter 15A and incompetency under G.S. Chapter 35A. This post provides a primer on incapacity and incompetency proceedings and compares the standards for each.

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