47°F
weather icon Clear

Juvenile competency statute proposed for Nevada

Children in the juvenile justice system often face different competency issues than adults in the criminal system.

But Nevada currently lacks a statute to address competency issues among juveniles. Officials have used adult criminal procedures as a guide instead, said Susan Roske, an attorney with the Clark County juvenile public defender’s office.

The juvenile competency issue is drawing attention nationwide because the reasons children are incompetent for the purposes of court proceedings often differ from those that arise in adult cases, she said on Thursday.

There are limited rules and procedures under the general provisions of juvenile justice in the state, she said. Roske and Jo Lee Wickes, the chief deputy district attorney who supervises the juvenile division in Washoe County, both led a juvenile competency sub­committee of the Commission on Statewide Juvenile Justice Reform. The commission recently finalized a proposed statute for juvenile competency.

“There was a lot of give and take, and we thought we came up with a statute that will work statewide,” Roske said.

The proposed statute indicates that at any time after a petition is filed and prior to the final order of disposition, if a child’s competency comes into question, the court should suspend the proceeding until a determination on competency is made.

Upon suspension of proceedings, the court should appoint an expert, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist, to examine the child and provide a written report to the court, according to the proposed statute.

The Legislative Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice on Friday voted to approve a bill draft for the juvenile competency statute.

Chairman and Assemblyman Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, said the committee only gets 10 bill drafts for a multitude of issues.

“I think across the country they have recognized the need to look at competency,” he said.

Juvenile competency issues are often related to their developmental age or developmental disabilities. Among adults, competency often comes into question because of mental illness, Roske and Wickes said.

When an adult’s competency is called into question in Nevada, the courts order them to be sent to Lake’s Crossing Center, the state’s only maximum-security psychiatric facility, to be evaluated and treated. If a juvenile is detained because they are considered to be a risk to themselves or the community, they could be sent to a residential treatment center, Roske said.

But “a lot of these children are just young,” she said.

Often, children of questionable competency are not in custody so the judge will refer them to a psychologist, Roske said.

Legal problems have not yet arisen because adult criminal procedures are used in determining the competency of delinquents, she said. But issues sometimes surface, Wickes said.

If the proposed statute ultimately becomes law “it will provide a framework for the court, the district attorney’s office, public defenders and probation offers to understand what the requirements are,” Wickes said.

“I think it will just give more regularity in the state,” Roske said. There will be a “timeline in place of when the report is expected to be filed and guidance from the judge if the child cannot attain competency and possible dismissal of charges.”

Contact Yesenia Amaro at yamaro@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440. Follow @YeseniaAmaro on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Accused murder mastermind Frank LaPena is granted a pardon - VIDEO
A onetime Las Vegas casino bell captain who spent 25 years in prison as the accused mastermind in a notorious 1974 contract murder won his last legal battle for freedom Wednesday when the state Pardons Board granted him a conditional pardon restoring all his civil rights. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Middle: Nonpartisan voters and the 2020 election
How will the growing segment of nonpartisan or independent voters — those who have not registered with either political party, or who have left partisan politics behind — vote in 2020?
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - VIDEO
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - VIDEO
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST
Cedar Breaks Scenic Road closed for winter

BRIAN HEAD, Utah — Cedar Breaks National Monument’s Scenic Road connecting Utah Highways 14 and 143, has closed for the winter season.

Washoe County makes arrest in 1979 murder

Forty years after the murder of a woman whose body was found in the remote hills north of Reno, DNA evidence led Washoe County sheriff’s deputies to arrest a man in connection with the case, which is eerily similar to another unsolved murder that took place the same year.