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The MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool–Criminal Adjudication

Steven K. Hoge, MD, Richard J. Bonnie, LLB, Norman G. Poythress, PhD, and John Monahan, PhD

Evaluates a defendant's capacity to proceed to adjudication
Paper and pencil
Age range:
18 years to 80 years
25-55 minutes
Qualification level:
A degree from an accredited 4-year college or university in psychology, counseling, speech-language pathology, or a closely related field plus satisfactory completion of coursework in test interpretation, psychometrics and measurement theory, educational statistics, or a closely related area; or license or certification from an agency that requires appropriate training and experience in the ethical and competent use of psychological tests. Close

The MacCAT-CA is a 22-item structured interview for the pretrial assessment of adjudicative competence.

Features and benefits

  • Uses a vignette format and objectively scored questions to standardize the measurement of three competence-related abilities: understanding, reasoning, and appreciation.
  • The eight understanding and eight reasoning items are based on a brief vignette that describes a hypothetical crime; the 16 items query about prosecution of the hypothetical defendant. This approach was designed to introduce legal issues in a way that distances the defendant from the specifics of his or her own case.
  • The six appreciation items query defendants about their attitudes and beliefs concerning the legal process as it surrounds their own cases.
  • Norms are based on the scores of 729 defendants; score ranges for three levels of impairment (none or minimal, mild, and clinically significant) are provided for each measured ability.
  • Validated with three groups of criminal defendants with varying competence levels and mental illness treatment histories.

A continuing education course on the MacCAT-CA is available through the Global Institute of Forensic Research, the official home of continuing education credits for PAR products.