What is the M’Naghten Rule – the Basis of Insanity Defenses?


The M’Naghten Rule is the basis of insanity defenses in the United Kingdom and the United States. It was established by the British House of Lords in the mid-19th Century.

The rule is a test of whether the person accused of a crime was sane when the act was committed and criminally responsible for what happened. The rule is named after Daniel M’Naghten, a man who tried to kill the British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. M’Naghten apparently believed that Peel wanted to kill him. He tried to assassinate the Prime Minister but instead shot his private secretary, Edward Drummond dead in 1843.

How the M'Naghten Rule developed in the 19th Century led to the insanity defense
The M’Naghten Rules forms the basis of the insanity defense

Medical experts were brought in for M’Naghten’s murder trial. They testified that he was psychotic. M’Naghten wad found not guilty by reason of insanity. The verdict caused an outcry from the public who had never heard of an insanity defense.

The House of Lords ordered the courts to draw up a strict definition of criminal insanity that could be used in future criminal trials. The result was the M’Naghten Rule. The justices ruled that insanity was a defense only when if the accused had a defect of reason at the time the crime was committed. The defendant should not have known about the nature of his or her actions and been too deranged to realize they were wrong.

The M’Naghten Rule was first applied by the courts in the United States in the 19th Century, just a few years after the British ruling. The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law reported how in 1846, New York State tried William Freeman who was accused of killing several members of the Van Nest family near Auburn, New York. Freeman demonstrated psychotic behavior. He was obsessed with horse theft and false imprisonment. William Seward, his defense lawyer, wanted an insanity verdict and used the M’Naghten Rule argument. Although Freeman was clearly impaired, a jury found him competent to stand trial.

A jury found Freeman guilty of the killings and a judge sentenced him to death. Seward filed a Writ of Error. The New York State Supreme Court reversed Freeman’s conviction and death sentence. The court said the M’Naghten Rule would be the standard in New York.

The M’Naghten rule underpins Arizona’s guilty except insane (GEI) defense. It allows the defendant in a case to show evidence of a serious “mental disease or defect.” Specific conditions can qualify for GEI. The effects of withdrawal from drugs and alcohol, impulse control, or psychosexual disorders do not meet the definition of guilty except insane. This is a hard defense to prove. The defendant must suffer from a condition that’s so serious, he or she was unaware that the criminal act was wrong.

If you or a family member has a mental disorder and is facing charges, our law firm can help you. Attorney Bernardo Garcia has assisted clients in these cases for decades. Please call him at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses | Tagged |

Tips for Helping Your Attorney When a Defendant Has a Mental Illness in Arizona


It’s very important for defendants with a mental illness in Arizona to hire a criminal defense lawyer. Most defendants are unfamiliar with the legal system and need a voice in court. This is especially the case when the accused has a mental disorder. His or her needs are often ignored in the criminal justice system.

Useful information you should disclose to an attorney about a family member with a mental illness
Disclosing medications used by a family member with a mental illness can be useful information for an attorney

Some attorneys like Bernardo Garcia have decades of experience helping clients with psychiatric illnesses. When a defendant has a psychiatric disorder or another health issue it’s important to help an attorney as much as possible to build a watertight defense.

Some tips to help your attorney when a defendant has a mental illness in Arizona include:

1 Disclose all of your medical conditions

Your medical condition may be important in building up a defense. Some people who suffer from mental illnesses don’t want to talk about it. However, you should reveal everything about your condition to your lawyer who is there to help you. He may pick up on something that helps your case.

2 Involve your family

Few things are as stressful as being charged with a crime. This is particularly the case for people with mental illnesses. Family members play a vital supporting role. You should get them involved in the legal process. Family members may be called to give evidence in some cases or provide testimony about the defendant’s mental illness.

3 Make sure you understand the legal process. If you are not clear about the role of your attorney, you may not be competent to stand trial. Family members should check their relative with mental illness understands the charges and the consequences. Your attorney will also do this.

4 Disclose all medications

You should make sure your lawyer is aware of any medications you are taking and inform the legal representative of any problems you may face accusing medication in jail. Family members can also inform the lawyer about his client’s medication.

5 List mitigating factors

Mitigation is important in cases where a mentally ill person faces criminal charges. In some cases, the defendant will plead guilty but the lawyer will present mitigating evidence that can reduce an eventual sentence. It’s important to keep people with psychiatric disorders and other mental health issues out of prison if possible.

6 Be ready to talk about alternatives

There are many mental health defenses and alternatives to incarceration like diversion programs. You should be ready to talk candidly with your attorney about what may work best for you.

Attorney Bernardo Garcia has a long track record of helping people with mental illnesses. He also works very closely with their family members. Call him for a consultation as soon as a loved one is arrested on Phoenix or elsewhere at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |

Sleep Deprivation in College Kids Fuels Mental Health Episodes


College students often lose out on sleep. They habitually work late cramming for examinations, or party and lead hectic lives. A new study points out sleep deprivation can have an adverse effect on mental health.

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney helps people when they get into trouble with the law. He often helps people with mental health disorders. We know how hectic lifestyles and lack of sleep can fuel mental health problems and result in criminality.

Sleep deprivation and mental health
Sleep deprivation impacts mental health

Colleges, whether in Phoenix or elsewhere, can be stressful places. There’s a lot of pressure on students to perform well academically and many are away from home for the first time. Insomnia fuels their problems.

A number of recent studies point to the detrimental effect of a lack of sleep in college students including mental illnesses. Sleep deprivation, according to Harvard Health, affects your psychological state and your mental health. It’s a vicious cycle because people who suffer from mental health problems are more likely to struggle with sleep disorders.

America as a whole suffers from sleep deprivation. Many people have stressful jobs and we work long hours. People with psychiatric disorders are more likely to feel tired and down. Harvard Health stated as many as 50 to 80 percent of people with mental illnesses suffer from sleeping disorders. Insomnia is particularly common in people with depression, bipolar disorders, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

While sleep disorders are typically viewed as symptoms rather than the cause of psychological problems, studies suggest a lack of sleep may cause psychological problems. College students are a high-risk group.

Why Sleep Deprivation May Impact Mental Health

The research is important. It indicates treating an underlying sleeping disorder may help alleviate the symptoms of a mental health problem.

Every 90 minutes, a normal sleeper experiences “quiet” or deep sleep. The muscles relax, the body temperature falls, the heart rate drops, and breathing slows down. The deeper phase of sleep causes physiological changes that boost immune system functioning.

REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, is the other category of sleep when people dream. It entails an increase in body temperature, blood temperature, and other indicators. Studies suggest REM sleep improves learning and memory and is beneficial for emotional health.

Although scientists are still working on the methodology, they have found disruption to sleep causes havoc in the brain, impairs emotions, and stops people from thinking rationally. Insomnia can exacerbate mental disorders.

When people with mental illnesses end up in the Arizona courts, they often have chaotic lives and little sleep. Our attorney at the Garcia Lw Firm will talk to you and your family members about these issues. Underlying stresses that cause lack of sleep may be important in the courtroom when arguments are made for a lesser sentence, known as sentencing mitigation.

Please contact the Garcia Law Firm today if you or a family member with a mental illness has been arrested.

Posted in Mental Health |

Health Rankings Point to an Increase in Adults Experiencing Mental Health Distress in Arizona


Suffering from a mental health disorder is a major challenge in Arizona. Not only are the courts often unsympathetic to people with mental illness but the state has a serious lack of providers.

According to America’s Health Rankings, Arizona ranks 47th in the nation in terms of access to mental healthcare for its population.

more adults experience mental health distress in Arizona
Arizona sees an increase in people with mental health challenges

The Healthcare provider BlueCross BlueShield of Arizona points out the level of providers remains low even though the number of adults who suffer from frequent mental distress in Arizona jumped by 5 percent from 2017 to 2018.

Blue Cross Blue Shield is addressing the issue through its Mobilize AZ initiative. It provided $560,000 in funding to the Arizona Department of Health Services’ (ADHS) State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP). 

The SLRP is intended to help enlist and keep healthcare officials, including mental health specialists in rural areas that lack qualified mental health professionals.

The program repays the educational loans of healthcare providers on condition they remain in areas that suffer from a shortage of medical professionals.

America’s Health Ranking findings are in line with previous research that highlighted Arizona’s dismal levels of mental healthcare provision.

In 2015, Mental Health America found Arizona was the second-worst state in the country for addressing mental health issues. The Phoenix New Times analyzed the frequency of mental illness in every state and the District of Columbia.

The nonprofit looked at adult and children. It considered the numbers of people with diagnosed mental health conditions, serious thoughts of suicide, and substance-abuse issues.

It assessed the number of adults and children who suffer from mental illnesses but were not receiving treatment and had no access to a doctor or a medical health professional.

The study revealed a huge unmet need in Arizona. Only Oregon had poorer levels of access to mental health services.

In 2014, Arizona stepped up its levels of help for people with acute problems such as severe depression and schizophrenia.

However, the state was found to be failing people with moderate mental illness and failing to intervene before it became acute and they lost their jobs, families, or ended up in trouble with the law.

The study found not enough primary-care physicians are screening patients for mental illness until the disease has progressed and caused serious problems.

At the Garcia Law Firm, we have a long track record of representing mentally ill people in the courts. We know the challenges mentally ill people and their families face and the lack of support networks. Please call attorney Bernardo Garcia today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |

Report is Critical of Police Transportation of People with Mental Illnesses


Police departments are heavily involved in the transportation of people with mental illnesses. It’s a role that is stretching police departments and is not helpful for mental illness sufferers, according to a recent report.

A report by the Treatment Advocacy Center found as much as 10 percent of police budgets is spent on the transportation of people with mental illnesses. The Virginia-based nonprofit claimed the role police play in transporting mental ill people strains police budgets. It leaves many officers feeling uncomfortable and is little help to the mentally ill.

Report is critical of police transportation of the mentally ill
Report criticizes transportation of people with mental illnesses

The report pointed out members of law enforcement do not serve as treatment providers for any other illness. However, they have become “road runners,” in responding to mental health emergencies and traveling long distances to shuttle people suffering from mental illness from one facility to another.

The report was published in conjunction with the National Sheriffs’ Association and the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police. It was funded by the Achelis and Bodman Foundation. Key findings included the following:

  • An average of 10 percent of law enforcement agencies’ total budgets was spent responding to mental illness emergencies and transporting the mentally ill in 2017.
  • The time spent transporting people with mental illness by police in 2017 amounted to 165,295 hours, or more than 18 years.
  • Police took people five times further to a secure facility after a mental health crisis than when prisoners are taken to a jail or prison. 
  • About $918 million was spent by law enforcement on transporting people with severe mental illnesses.
  • The transportation of people with mental illnesses made up more than 20 percent of police time.
  • Law enforcement officers waited much longer — an average of about 2.5 hours longer — when dropping a patient off at a medical facility than if transporting someone to jail.
  • Some officers waited for 72 hours or more until a bed became available.

The survey was based on the responses of more than 3,000 officers from 355 sheriffs or police departments in 2017. The problem is exacerbated by the gradual reduction in state hospital beds available to patients suffering from mental health issues.

The survey stated institutions failed to admit the patients in about half of the instances. Researchers said:

“Officers spend significant amounts of time and resources serving in a role for which they neither planned nor trained. They are forced to make decisions about where to take someone in crisis, wrestle with how long it will take to get there, and worry about the opportunity cost of leaving their regular duties, all the while knowing the person in crisis may not even receive the treatment he or she needs.”

The results of this survey are particularly worrying because people with mental illnesses are more likely to come to harm in police custody.

A survey by the Treatment Advocacy Center found people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians who are stopped or encountered by law enforcement.

People with untreated mental illnesses comprise about 1 in 50 U.S. adults. However, people with severe untreated mental illnesses like schizophrenia are involved in at least 1 in 4 incidents and as many as half of all fatal police shootings, the center study reports.

People with untreated mental illnesses are more likely to be arrested and their chances of being bailed are lower than the rest of the population, even when they are picked up for minor issues.

At the Garcia Law Firm, our attorney has helped people with mental illness to negotiate the criminal justice system for decades. Please call Bernardo Garcia at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |

Decriminalization of Mental Health Bears Results in One Arizona City


The criminal justice system can be tough on people with mental illnesses. However, some jurisdictions are pursuing the decriminalization of mental health with positive results.

They include Yavapai County in Arizona where Sheriff Scott Mascher is so enthusiastic about his department’s Reach Out program that he wants to tell the world about it.

Decriminalization of mental health offenses proves positive in Yavapai County

He told PoliceOne, the program is making inroads in the problem of people with mental health issues and substance abuse in the criminal justice system.

About five years ago, Mascher was working on a voter issue to extend a jail sales tax. He kept hearing about people with mental illness and substance abuse problems who got caught up in the criminal justice system. Family members would call for help over a mental health crisis and the mentally ill person would end up in the justice system, usually for a minor offense like trespassing or disorderly conduct.

He told PoliceOne, every year more than 11 million people are processed by the prison system. Many of them are low-level, misdemeanors involving no violence. However, the offenses cost local governments about $22 billion annually. The article noted 64 percent of these inmates suffer from mental illness and 68 percent have a substance abuse disorder.

Mascher said the recidivism rate for inmates in Yavapai County is particularly high, rising to 80 percent. People who suffer from mental illnesses are locked up 4 to 8 times longer than people without mental illnesses who are arrested on the same charges. 

Seven times more people who suffer mental health problems end up in jails or prisons than at treatment facilities that can help them. The authorities in Yavapai tackled this problem. They started meeting with their local judiciary, county attorney, schools, mental health providers, legislators, and concerned citizens. They set up a local mental health coalition which proved to be a template for change.

At the Garcia Law Firm, attorney Bernardo Garcia is alarmed about how people with mental illnesses get trapped in jail and prison. We do everything possible to keep your mentally ill family member out of incarceration. Call us at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Arizona Laws, Mental Health | Tagged |

How Family Caregivers can Help if Your Loved One is in Trouble with the Law


Family caregivers play an important role if your loved one is in trouble with the law in Arizona and elsewhere.

How family caregivers can help after he arrest of a loved one in Arizona
Family caregivers can help a loved one after arrest

No matter who you are or what your mental state, an arrest is a traumatic experience. It’s considerably worse for people with mental health issues. An arrest can trigger a mental health crisis. The defendant might not have medication and no idea how to react to an arrest.

How Family Caregivers Can Help After an Arrest in Arizona

Family caregivers can be invaluable if a loved one is in trouble with the law. The National Alliance on Mental Illness points out family members should act fast after the arrest of a relative with a mental illness.

Police will not always tell you where a family member is being held. You can use an online jail locator to track down a loved one.

If you know which jail your loved one is being held in, you should make sure he or she has their proper medication. Sudden withdrawal from medication can exacerbate mental health problems and trigger a crisis.

If your family member has not informed the jail staff about his or her condition, the caregiver should contact his doctor or psychiatrist as soon as possible.

You may have to contact a doctor in writing. Some medical professionals are concerned about sharing information with jail staff. Caregivers should stress the urgency of the situation. Make the request succinct. Stress the following:

  • The diagnosis of your loved one
  • What type of medication he or she takes
  • The caregiver’s contact information
  • Information relating to your family member’s doctor.

A caregiver should aim to visit a loved one who is in trouble with the law as soon as possible. If the family member appears at a bail hearing, it’s important to attend and provide funds for the defendant to make bail if possible.

The caregiver can also arrange for the mentally ill family member to receive legal representation.

Be persistent in tracking down an attorney and look for a lawyer with a long track record in defending people with mental illnesses.

Going to court and giving as much background as possible about your loved one to an attorney can help secure his or her release. Ask the attorney about pre-trial release or jail diversion programs that could be beneficial.

It’s also important for the caregiver to make sure a family member is not being mistreated in jail. Inform the attorney of any mistreatment and consider contacting organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Family caregivers play a vital role after a family member gets into trouble with the law in Arizona. Working with an attorney can be extremely helpful. Please contact our Phoenix-based criminal defense lawyer today.

Posted in Mental Health |

People with Developmental Delays May Lose Out in the Criminal Justice System


Developmental delays or developmental disabilities can be caused by a range of conditions. The courts are a blunt instrument when it comes to dealing with people with these disorders. People with developmental delays may lose out in the criminal justice system.

Developmental delays are first diagnosed in childhood. A child may struggle to speak or understand what’s going on.

According to Healthline, developmental delays can be caused by conditions including intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and muscular dystrophy.

Developmental delays in the Arizona criminal justice system
Developmental delays can cause issues in the criminal justice system

Developmental delays can affect vision, language and speech, movement, social and emotional skills, and cognitive skills.

When a delay causes all of these disorders, the condition is called a global development delay.

Developmental delays can last into adulthood and mean people who suffer from them lose out in the justice system. Juries can be less sympathetic to people with developmental delays unless their conditions are properly highlighted by a criminal defense lawyer who is familiar with the challenges a defendant faces.

According to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report, 30 percent of all prisoners report having a cognitive disability. About 3 in 10 state and federal prisoners and 4 out of 10 local jail inmates report suffering from at least one disability.

The figure is considerably higher than among the general public where under 5 percent of people report a developmental difficulty.

The figure was reached by researchers asking inmates if a mental, physical, or emotional difficulty caused problems with concentration, remembering, or decision-making.

Research by the mental health non-profit The Arc found people who suffer from developmental or intellectual disabilities are more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system both as victims and perpetrators. They are 4 to 10 times more likely to become victims of crime when compared to those without disabilities.

The report noted many people who suffer from developmental delays suffered childhood trauma. Research from the mid-80s to the 1990s indicated the types of offenses committed range from property crimes like theft and shoplifting to sexual assault and homicides. Studies show people who suffer sexual abuse as children have a higher chance of becoming abusers.

The Arc suggested people with developmental difficulties are more likely to be enlisted by criminals to take part in crimes. They often do not realize the gravity of what they are doing. People with developmental delays are more likely to admit to crimes they did not commit or be manipulated by law enforcement officers.

At the Garcia Law Firm PLC, we have represented people with developmental delays and other mental health issues for decades. Please call our experienced criminal defense lawyer today at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health, Mental Health Defenses, Uncategorized | Tagged |

ACLU Warns of Lack of Medical Care and Deaths in Arizona Prisons


Deaths in Arizona prisons occur far too often. The large population that suffers from mental illness is most vulnerable.

In 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published an account of “horrifying” stories from Arizona prisons.

The ACLU highlighted a lack of adequate medical care and poor resources for people with mental illness. The report illustrates the importance of alternative sentences to incarceration for the mentally ill.

ACLU is concerned about the lack of medical care in Arizona prisons
ACLU warns of lack of medical care in prisons

The report detailed how a 43-year-old died from a staph infection at an Arizona facility. A 36-year-old inmate died due to delays in diagnosis and inadequate emergency care for an aortic dissection. Three men succumbed to complications from metastatic cancer. The cancers spread due to a lack of medical treatment.

The picture of poor medical care and deaths in Arizona prisons is just as depressing for people who suffer from mental health problems.

The ACLU warned the lack of help for mentally ill people in Arizona prisons is disastrous.

In the spring of 2017, prisons recorded four suicides in a three week period, an “astonishing rate of self-harm” in the state prison system.

The ACLU claimed the deaths were in breach of a legal settlement reached more than four years ago in the case of Parsons v Ryan. A settlement reached in the case was meant to provide new healthcare and mental health safety standards for inmates.

That settlement required the Arizona Department of Corrections to revise the rules for prisoners with serious mental disorders in solitary confinement. Instead of spending all but six hours a week locked in their cells, prisoners should be given a minimum of 19 hours a week outside the cell. The time must include mental health treatment and other programs. 

The ACL said the Arizona Department of Corrections failed to meet its requirements. It said inmates in prisons are suffering and dying because of the state’s inherent failures. Delayed health care and help for inmates with mental illnesses is often a death sentence.

Last June a federal court found Arizona prison officials to be in contempt of court for their continued failure to provide basic health care to inmates. The ACL noted U.S. Magistrate Judge David K. Duncan fined ADC more than $1.4 million for repeated violations of the settlement agreement. 

The lack of access to medical care and deaths in Arizona prisons is clearly a major concern. People with mental health problems are suffering and dying in Arizona prisons.

If your mentally ill family member is facing criminal proceedings in Phoenix or elsewhere in Arizona please call our attorney at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health |

Arizona Locks Up More Mentally Ill People than it Hospitalizes


Arizona’s safety net for mentally ill people is a flimsy one. The state locks up more people than it hospitalizes and services for people with disorders are under fire.

An AZBigMedia report looked at how the state can improve its mental health services. In 2016, Mental Health America’s annual State of Mental Health Report placed Arizona at the foot of a table for mental health services. The report noted the high incidence of mental illness in the state and low access to mental healthcare.

Arizona locks up mentally ill people
Arizona locks up people with mental illnesses

Mental Health America noted factors like soaring poverty, low high school graduation rates, and elevated levels of toxic chemical release. Poor access to mental healthcare services elevates these issues.

Experts say Arizona needs more mental health professionals to address the lack of resources.

The Treatment Advocacy Center said Arizona failed to provide the number of beds needed to provide adequate treatment for people with mental illness.

AzBigMedia reported 50 beds per 100,000 people is the national standard. In 2016, there were just 4.4 beds per 100,000 people, ranking Arizona 48th nationally in terms of beds per capita.

The article noted a link between states with better access to mental health care and less violent crime, less unemployment, lower rates of child malnutrition and better high school graduation rates.

In contrast, Arizona locks up more people with mental illness than it hospitalizes. The article alluded to a 9.3-1 chance of being incarcerated versus being hospitalized if a person is mentally ill, according to the Treatment Advocacy Center.

When experts discuss the dramatic problems Arizona faces in dealing with its mental health crisis, a theme that reoccurs throughout the conversation is the increasing need for mental healthcare specialists.

Mental Health America’s report highlighted a particular issue with young people who suffer from mental health problems.

Arizona ranked 32nd in the nation for mental healthcare for adults and 47th for mental healthcare for young people. The report noted a lack of specialists able to treat infants, children and young adults.

Young people’s access to mental healthcare was significantly worse than that of adults according to the report.

The finding is alarming because more young people are coming up through the criminal justice system. People with untreated and undiagnosed mental health problems are more likely to end up breaking the law.

While many studies disprove an automatic link between mental health and crime, people who suffer from conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are more likely to offend if these conditions go untreated. If you or a family member is facing Arizona criminal court proceedings and suffer from mental illness, place contact the Garcia Law Firm at (602) 340-1999.

Posted in Mental Health | Tagged |