Juvenile Justice: States with Juvenile Competency Laws


Competency is an individual's cognitive ability to comprehend and participate in legal proceedings. In cases involving juveniles, states are expanding procedural protections by making developmental immaturity a factor in findings of incompetency to stand trial. Absent statutory direction, courts in other states may also recognize and review juveniles for competence.

State Juvenile Competency Laws in the Criminal Justice System

  • Due process requires that a criminal defendant be competent throughout the criminal proceeding.
  • Developmental immaturity or mental disorder may make a juvenile less able to assist in their defense or to make important decisions as part of their defense.
  • A John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's Research Network study revealed juveniles are less likely to trust and communiate effectively with their lawyers, both of which are essential elements in establishing a legal defense.
  • If at any point, there is a genuine doubt as to the defendant's competence to stand trial, the issue must be raised and the court may order an evaluation of the defendant.
  • Juvenile competency laws typically direct how the issue of competency is to be raised and evaluated.

Competency Map









Citations of Existing Juvenile Competency Laws

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 8-291.01 et seq. 

Ark. Stat. Ann. § 9-27-502

Cal. Welfare and Institutions §709 (West 2012)

Colo. Rev. Stat. §19-2-1301

Fla. Stat. Ann. §985.19

Ga. Code § 15-11-152

Idaho Code §20-519A

Kan. Stat. Ann. 38-23-48

La. Children’s Code Ann. Art. 832 et seq

Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. Tit. 15, §3318-A

Md. Code, Courts and Judicial Proceedings §3-8A-17 et seq

52 Minn. Stat. Ann., Juvenile Delinquency Procedure Rule 20.01

Neb. Rev. Stat. §43-258

2014 New Hampshire House Bill 1624 

Nevada Rev. Stat.  62d

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §2152.51 et seq

Okla. Stat. Tit. 10A  Section 2-2-401.1

S.D. Codified Laws Ann. 26-7A-32.1

Texas Family Code Ann. §51.20

Utah Stat. Ann. 78A-6-1302

Va. Code Ann. §16.1-356 et seq

Wis. Stat. §938.295

Westlaw was used to conduct this research.

NCSL Juvenile Justice Resources