The Process of Pleading Mentally Ill After Being Charged


Pleading not guilty because of mental illness is not a get of of jail free pass. A mentally ill plea required you to admit to the crime committed and to prove that mental illness was what led you to commit it. These pleas usually result in years of mandatory treatment in a mental hospital.

The Definition of Legal Insanity

To plea mentally ill, 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

mental health patient counseling Defendants who choose to plead guilty, 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. Defendant 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.

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