Dusky v. United States

Dusky v. United States

Dusky v. United States
Decided April 18, 1960
Full case name Milton Dusky v. United States
Citations 362 U.S. 402 (more)
80 S. Ct. 788; 4 L. Ed. 2d 824; 1960 U.S. LEXIS 1307
The competency standard for standing trial: whether the defendant has "sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding" and a "rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him."Dusky v. United States
Court membership
Case opinions
Per curiam.

Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402 (1960), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court affirmed a defendant's right to have a competency evaluation before proceeding to trial.[1] In this case, the court outlined the basic standards for determining competency.[2]

Milton Dusky, a 33 year old man, was charged with assisting in the kidnapping and rape of an underage female. He was clearly suffering from schizophrenia but was found Competent to Stand Trial and received a sentence of 45 years. On petition of writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, the petitioner requested that his conviction be reversed on the grounds that he was not competent to stand trial at the time of the proceeding.[2]


  • Decision 1
  • Significance 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Upon reviewing the evidence, the court decided to grant the writ of certiorari. The court ruled that to be competent to stand trial defendant must have a "sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding" and a "rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings against him."[1] The court made clear that a brief mental status exam was insufficient. His case was remanded for retrial, at which time his sentence was reduced to 20 years.[2]


This case set the current standard for adjudicative competence in the United States. Although the statutes addressing competency vary from state to state in the United States, the two elements outlined in the Dusky v. United States decision are held in common: The defendant must understand the charges against him and must have the ability to aid his attorney in his own defense[1][3] (although see Felthous (2011), who argues that many state statutes--and the federal statute--do not incorporate the rationality standard enunciated in Dusky).[4]

Subsequently, in Godinez v. Moran (1993) the Supreme Court held that the competency standard for pleading guilty or waiving the right to counsel is the same as the competency standard for standing trial established in Dusky v. United States, outlined above.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Dusky v. United States". caselaw.findlaw.com. Retrieved 2007-10-05. 
  2. ^ a b c "Assessment of Competency and Sanity". Archived from the original on 2007-06-04. Retrieved 2007-10-05. 
  3. ^ Grisso, Thomas (1988). Competency to Stand Trial Evaluations: A Manual for Practice (1988 ed.). Sarasota FL: Professional Resource Exchange. pp. 1–23.  
  4. ^ Felthous, A. R. (2011). Competence to stand trial should require rational understanding. Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 39(1), 19-30. http://www.jaapl.org/content/39/1/19.full
  5. ^ "Godinez, Warden v. Moran". Cornell Law School. Retrieved 2007-10-05. 

External links

  • Godinex, Warden v. Moran - standard for peading guilt or waiving counsel
  • Google Scholar link to case