Competency is a key legal term to understand. Knowing the answer to what does competency mean can ensure that you always stay the right side of the law when it comes to creating and completing contracts. Here, we define competency so that you can fully understand a competency meaning that will help strengthen your legal viewpoint in the future.

What is competency?

In US Law, competency is with regards to a person’s mental ability or fitness to understand a situation and then their subsequent ability to go on to make decisions. A competency definition may also be used in relation to how capable a criminal defendant is to stand a trial. In that way a person’s competency, or people’s competencies, need to be measured to ensure that a fair and legal trial can be held. Or, for that matter, that they can sign a contract as they have the right capacity. 

How does competency work?

Competency works by measuring a person’s capacity to be able to understand legal proceedings or a legal document that they have signed. In terms of a trial, a person needs to be able to be a credible witness and so must be capable of accurate perception, be able to recollect correctly, be able to communicate those recollections, and, most importantly, know that they must tell the truth. 

For that reason, a person under a certain age is often deemed as having a lower competency than a person over 18 or of adult age. However, that is not to say that a child cannot be called as a witness in a legal trial. Instead, it is up to the court to assess whether that child is able to tell the truth as well as remember correctly and then communicate effectively to a court when giving evidence. 

Advantages of competency

The concept of competency goes straight to the heart of a robust legal system. If people can be called to stand trial or to be a witness in a trial when they have diminished competence, any trial that transpires cannot be seen to have a strong, legal and proper basis. If a person cannot understand the legal proceedings of which they are part, nothing they say can be relied upon and thus any judgment that comes from any evidence given by them will be tainted. At worst, it could wrongly convict a person and sentence them to an imprisonment for a crime they did not commit. 

When it comes to standing trial, for that trial to be fair, the defendant must be of a standard of competency that they can be tried in a proper manner. If they do not possess a good enough understanding of the proceedings or charges lodged against them, it can have a significant bearing on the outcome of the trial. As a result, ensuring that defendants have a certain level of competency means that they can face justice fairly. 

Contractbook and competency

Given that people have to have the capacity to understand either a trial at which they are a defendant or a witness, or when signing a document, Contractbook puts competency at the core of its software. We make it intuitive to use so that confusion does not arise, clouding a person’s judgement. We also make our contracts easy to understand so that even a person without a law degree can grasp the detail within them. It means our contracts can be relied on in court - as much as a person with a good standard of competency.

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