, Derry, New Hampshire


September 5, 2013

N.H. Supreme Court rules in traffic stop cases


The law provides a criminal defendant a constitutional right not to be tried if he is legally incompetent.

Prosecutors bear a burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a defendant is competent to stand trial.

A two-part test requires that a defendant have (1) a sufficient present ability to consult with and assist his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding; and (2) a factual as well as rational understanding of the proceedings against him.

The defendant claimed that amnesia prevented him from effectively raising defenses.

A forensic examiner from the N.H. Department of Corrections interviewed the defendant, finding no impairment in functioning or cognitive problems, and stating that the defendant had a very good understanding of the proceedings against him.

In State v. Decato, decided on Aug. 28, 2013, the N.H. Supreme Court held that the defendant understood the proceedings involved in the trial and the alcohol induced amnesia at the time of the alleged crime did not render him incompetent to stand trial.

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