Competency Restoration FAQs

What is a competency evaluation?

The state of Washington employs psychologists who specialize in forensic evaluations, such as competency evaluations as stipulated in RCW 10.77. The evaluation typically involves a review of the defendant’s mental health history, education and work history. The defendant participates in a clinical interview with a psychologist. Occasionally, psychological testing is conducted. Evaluations can be done at a state hospital, in a jail setting, or at an attorney’s office, depending upon the defendant’s psychological condition and custody status.

Competency Restoration booklet cover

Why is my son/daughter/client being evaluated for competency?

A defendant is evaluated for competency when concerns have been raised with the court, typically either by defense counsel or prosecution, that the defendant is not capable of properly participating in their own defense due to mental health symptoms. 

What does it mean to be found “not competent?” 

Under RCW 10.77, the law which governs this process, a person can be found not competent on the basis of being diagnosed with a mental disease or defect which prevents them from understanding court proceedings and/or being able to rationally assist in his/her own defense.

What is competency restoration?

When a defendant is found not competent, the state is ordered to provide services to bring them back to competency. Restoration services typically involve admission to a forensic services unit, where other people are participating in the program. These services typically include educational, therapeutic and recreational activities. The services also may include administration of psychotropic medications. DSHS provides competency restoration services at Western State Hospital, Eastern State Hospital, and at a residential treatment facilities at the former Maple Lane School near Centralia.

How long is competency restoration treatment?

The court order typically specifies a number of days that a person will participate in treatment. If a person exhibits substantial improvements in psychiatric and psychological functioning, they can be re-evaluated for competency to stand trial. If found competent to stand trial, they can be returned to jail and continue with their case. If, after the first period or treatment, the court continues to find the person incompetent, the court can order another treatment period. There are cases when a person is found not to be restorable in a “reasonable period” (typically longer than six months). If this occurs, charges may be temporarily dismissed, and the person may be admitted to a civil psychiatric unit at a hospital for continued treatment. If this person is later found competent to stand trial, the prosecuting attorney can re-open the case and court proceedings can continue. This process is known as dismissed without prejudice.

What happens when someone is found competent?

When a defendant is found competent, they are returned to the jail. A hearing will be set to formalize the court’s opinion on whether the person is competent and ready to participate in adjudication. 

What if the attorney doesn’t agree with the court’s opinion that the individual is competent?

The defense counsel has the right to hold a formal hearing in which the defense can bring an expert to testify that the person is not competent and the state will bring its expert witness to testify that the person is competent. The defendant has the right to testify in this hearing. After the judge hears testimony and arguments, a decision will be made to determine the defendant’s competency. 

Can I visit someone who is participating in competency restoration?

Yes. Call the facility where the person resides to get more information regarding visitation hours and procedures.

Fort Steilacoom Competency Restoration Program Residential Treatment Facility – (253) 984-5651

Maple Lane Residential Treatment Facility – (360) 664-4641Maple Lane contact

Western State Hospital – (253) 582-8900Western state hospital contact

Eastern State Hospital – (509) 565-4000Eastern state hospital contact

I have questions about my family member.  Who can I contact?

That depends on the type of question you have. The assigned attorney would be a good resource to start with. Contact information for attorneys can be found at

Partner Resources

Communications with Stakeholders

Related Statutes and Legislation

  • SB 6656 (2016) – An act relating to the reform practices at state hospitals.
  • SB 5177 (2015) - An act relating to improving timeliness of competency evaluation and restoration services by clarifying alternative locations for the provision of competency restoration services and defining time periods of commitment.
  • SB 6492 (2012) – Improving timeliness, efficiency, and accountability of forensic resource use associated with competency to stand trial.
  • RCW 10.77 – Criminally insane procedures.