When Can the Insanity Defense Be Used?

When Can the Insanity Defense Be Used?

Everyone knows that a defendant has the right to plead guilty or not guilty, however these are not the only plea options. Sometimes, it is in the defendant’s best interest to plead “not guilty by reason of insanity.” However, using the insanity defense is only effective under certain circumstances.

Who Can Plead Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity?

The law states that someone cannot be held accountable for committing a crime if a mental disease or defect made it impossible for him to know the difference between right from wrong at the time the crime was committed. For instance, if a mental illness makes it impossible for someone to understand that hurting another person is wrong, he should plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

The law also states that someone cannot be convicted of a crime if it can be proven that a mental disease or defect makes it impossible for him to form a “culpable mental state” needed to commit a crime. For example, someone who has been charged with first degree murder is being accused of intentionally killing another person. This means the prosecution must prove the defendant intended on killing the victim. If a mental defect or disease makes it impossible for someone to be in this state of mind, he should plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

Examples of Mental Diseases and Defects

The law refers to “mental diseases and defects” when describing how to prove that a defendant is legally insane. But, what are mental diseases and defects? Any condition that severely impairs a person’s ability to understand reality could be classified as a mental disease or defect. This includes schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, certain neurological disorders, and more.

The insanity defense cannot be used when the defendant’s mental state was impaired because of the voluntary consumption of drugs or alcohol.

Proving Insanity in Court

If a defendant pleads not guilty by reason of insanity, the burden of proof falls on the prosecution. This means it is the prosecution’s responsibility—not the defense’s—to prove that the defendant is sane. Both the prosecution and the defense can hire mental health experts to assess the defendant’s state of mind. It is common for the prosecution’s experts to find that the defendant is sane and the defense’s experts to find that the defendant is insane. When this happens, it’s up to the judge and jury to decide the defendant’s fate.

If you have been charged with a crime, discuss your case with the criminal defense attorneys at Reisch Law Firm. The insanity defense is rarely used in Colorado, but there are many other effective defense strategies. Let us build a solid defense strategy that can be used to protect your future. Schedule a free consultation today by calling 303-291-0555 or filling out this online form.

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