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<span>Incompetency to Stand Trial:</span> What Does it Mean?

Incompetency to Stand Trial: What Does it Mean?

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phillips, hunt & walker Incompetency to Stand Trial: What Does it Mean?

Today, the criminal defense lawyers of Jacksonville Pediatric Dentist Howard S. Schneider filed a motion to determine his competency in the medicaid fraud case against him. People often do not understand or are confused by what it means to be found incompetent to proceed or confuse it with being otherwise filed not guilty or “getting away” with a crime based on mental illness.

“Incompetent to proceed” versus “not guilty by reason of insanity” in criminal court cases

In criminal court proceedings, competency refers to a defendant’s ability to proceed in various stages of a case. By law, defendants are found incompetent to proceed if they do not:

  • understand the charges/allegations against them,
  • comprehend the possible penalties,
  • understand the adversarial nature of the legal process,
  • have the ability to disclose to an attorney pertinent facts that would aid in their defense,
  • exhibit appropriate courtroom behavior,
  • have the ability to testify relevantly.

Specifically, the relevant Florida law states:

916.12 Mental competence to proceed.—

(1) A defendant is incompetent to proceed within the meaning of this chapter if the defendant does not have sufficient present ability to consult with her or his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding or if the defendant has no rational, as well as factual, understanding of the proceedings against her or him.

Mental health experts appointed pursuant to s. 916.115 shall first determine whether the defendant has a mental illness. If and when a defendant is found incompetent to proceed, criminal court proceedings are halted. If competency is restored, defendants return to court and criminal case proceedings resume.

By contrast, a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity excludes a defendant from criminal responsibility based on his/her mental state at the time of the alleged crime. It is not a general incapacity or mental illness, but a mental deficiency that impaired a defendant’s ability to understand the wrongfulness of the conduct and/or the consequences of his or her actions. Dr. Schneider has made no such claim. Quite the opposite, he refutes wrongdoing and can’t use this defense of insanity in this instance.

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Competency evaluations very common (60,000/year) and serve to delay trial. Requests are commonly unsuccessful and, even when successful, can be temporary.

For someone of Dr. Schneider’s age, it is a very important issue, as his lifespan and deteriorating health are issues. It is also a double edged sword- when did he become incompetent? There is evidence that some incompetence occurred before he stopped treating children. This evidence actually serves to prove not only the civil case, but elements of medicaid fraud if this factored into his over-billing or excessive treatment.

It also will not stop firms like ours from proceeding with civil cases. We have over 20 cases proceeding against Dr. Schneider.

More Information:

General Information About Dental Abuse Civil Cases:

Case Against Howard S. Schneider:

National News Stories About Schneider Case:

Other Resources:

Evidence Locker:

The Law Offices of John Phillips are based in Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach, Florida, but John is licensed in Florida, Georgia and Alabama and before the U.S. Supreme Court. We will consult wherever injustice lives. In addition to personal injury and wrongful death, our firm handles family law matters and select criminal defense cases. You can contact us at

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