Can Charges Be Dropped Due to Mental Illness
The Definition of Legal Insanity
To plea mentally ill after being charged of a crime, the mental illness must be so severe that society should not deem the offender morally responsible for their behavior. This is because most people who commit a crime results in some distortion of the mental process. While the courts continue to distinguish between those who cannot be held morally responsible due to mental illness and those who deserve time in prison, there are two tests used by the court to define mental illness.
· The M’Naghten Test determines whether the defendant knew right from wrong when committing the crime.
· The Brawner Test is used in some states in place of the M’Naghten test and it deems the defendant insane if, by mental defect, they lack the capacity to understand the criminality of their actions.
· The Irresistible Impulse Test determines if defendants are insane if their mental disorder prevents them from resisting the compulsion of an illegal act.
Trial Procedures for Pleading Mentally Ill
Defendants who choose to plead mental illness must inform the court before the trial begins. The court will then assign a psychiatrist to the case who will examine the defendant and then testify in the trial. Defendants must convince the judge or jury that they were insane at the time they committed the criminal act using clear evidence. The psychiatrist will also provide a mental diagnosis concerning the defendant’s mental illness.
Being Found Not Guilty Due to Mental Illness
If the defendant is found not guilty due to mental insanity they are typically sentenced to being confined to a mental health facility until they are able to convince the judge that they are no longer mentally insane. These sentences are usually longer periods of time than the defendant would have spent in prison.
What Goes into a Mental Health Defense?
A mental health defense, or the insanity defense, is not a get out of jail free card. A lot goes in to a defense to prove insanity and in the end the sentences are not a walk in the park. Many times a defendant is found guilty but get a less serious sentence due to a mental impairment. Other times a defendant may be found not guilty due to reasons of insanity. But in these cases, the defendants are still usually ordered to stay at a mental health facility, to complete treatments and to face other consequences. It also takes a lot of investigating to determine if the defendant was in fact mentally impaired at the time of the crime. The following article will explain what goes in to making a mental health defense.
How Courts Test for Legal Insanity
In order to prove that a defendant was mentally impaired at the time they committed a crime, you must be able to prove at least one of the following:
- The “M’Naghten Rule” – Defendant either did not understand what he or she did, or failed to distinguish right from wrong, because of a “disease of mind.”
- The “Irresistible Impulse” Test – As a result of a mental disease, defendant was unable to control his impulses, which led to a criminal act.
- The “Durham Rule” – Regardless of clinical diagnosis, defendant’s “mental defect” resulted in a criminal act.
- The “Model Penal Code” Test for Legal Insanity – Because of a diagnosed mental defect, defendant either failed to understand the criminality of his acts, or was unable to act within the confines of the law.
The defendant is typically tested by medical professionals and psychiatrists who can testify to their mental capabilities. Although, the insanity defense is not commonly used as a defense because it doesn’t get the defendant out scot-free.