Difference between revisions of "Mental Incapacity"

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The insanity defense is based on the principle that the government can justify punishment only if the accused is capable of controlling his behavior and was capable at the time the crime was committed of understanding that his actions were wrongful.  If the defendant was incapable of distinguishing right from wrong when he committed the crime, he cannot be held criminally responsible.  An insanity defense generally rests on the testimony of a psychiatrist who examined the defendant, his history, and the facts of the case.  In the United States, the court will appoint a psychiatrist at the government's expense to examine the defendant if he cannot afford to hire his own psychiatrist.  
 
The insanity defense is based on the principle that the government can justify punishment only if the accused is capable of controlling his behavior and was capable at the time the crime was committed of understanding that his actions were wrongful.  If the defendant was incapable of distinguishing right from wrong when he committed the crime, he cannot be held criminally responsible.  An insanity defense generally rests on the testimony of a psychiatrist who examined the defendant, his history, and the facts of the case.  In the United States, the court will appoint a psychiatrist at the government's expense to examine the defendant if he cannot afford to hire his own psychiatrist.  
  
The insanity defense is a controversial and complicated topic and a full discussion is beyond the scope of this resource.  There are various definitions and standards for insanity.
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The insanity defense is a controversial and complicated topic and a full discussion is beyond the scope of this resource.  There are various US definitions and standards for insanity:
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* M'Naghten Rule - A defendant is not guilty if the proof establishes that a mental disease prevents the defendant from being able to distinguish right from wrong.
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* Irresistible Impulse Test - A defendant is not guilty if the proof establishes that because of a mental illness the defendant was unable to control his actions or conform his conduct to the law.  With the irresistible impulse test, the defendant may recognize his actions are wrong but cannot control them due to mental illness.
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* Durham/New Hampshire Test - A defendant is not guilty if the proof establishes that his crime was the product of a mental disease or defect.  This is a "but for" test.  A crime is a "product of" the disease if it would not have been committed but for the mental illness.  It is a broad test and gives psychiatrists great latitude to testify about the defendant's mental condition.  This test is controversial because it is very broad and thus is only used in a few jurisdictions.
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* Model Penal Code Test - Many jurisdictions in the United States are starting to adopt this test.  It is a combination of the M'Naghten rule and the Irresistible Impulse test.  Under this test, the defendant is entitled to a not guilty verdict if he suffered from a mental disease and as a result lacked substantial capacity to either: a) appreciate the criminality (wrongfulness) of his conduct; or (b) conform his conduct to the requirements of law.
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If a defendant is acquitted as a result of the insanity defense, he is released.  Because of the controversial nature of the plea, and the obvious concern about releasing a person who has committed a crime, many jurisdictions have adopted a "guilty but mentally ill" or "guilty by reason of insanity" plea.  Under this plea, a defendant admits guilt and is sentenced to a mental health institution until he is judged able to return safely to society.
 
If a defendant is acquitted as a result of the insanity defense, he is released.  Because of the controversial nature of the plea, and the obvious concern about releasing a person who has committed a crime, many jurisdictions have adopted a "guilty but mentally ill" or "guilty by reason of insanity" plea.  Under this plea, a defendant admits guilt and is sentenced to a mental health institution until he is judged able to return safely to society.

Revision as of 16:08, 7 April 2010

Under this defense, the lawyer argues that the defendant lacked the capacity to distinguish right from wrong or to understand the likely consequences of his/her actions Examples of incapacity include:

Insanity

The insanity defense is an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense means that the burden is on the defendant to present evidence to rebut the presumption of sanity. Under this defense, the defense lawyer does not deny that the defendant committed the elements of the alleged crime but still attempts to prove the innocence of the defendant because, generally speaking, he did not appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or was unable to conform his conduct to the law.

The insanity defense is based on the principle that the government can justify punishment only if the accused is capable of controlling his behavior and was capable at the time the crime was committed of understanding that his actions were wrongful. If the defendant was incapable of distinguishing right from wrong when he committed the crime, he cannot be held criminally responsible. An insanity defense generally rests on the testimony of a psychiatrist who examined the defendant, his history, and the facts of the case. In the United States, the court will appoint a psychiatrist at the government's expense to examine the defendant if he cannot afford to hire his own psychiatrist.

The insanity defense is a controversial and complicated topic and a full discussion is beyond the scope of this resource. There are various US definitions and standards for insanity:

  • M'Naghten Rule - A defendant is not guilty if the proof establishes that a mental disease prevents the defendant from being able to distinguish right from wrong.
  • Irresistible Impulse Test - A defendant is not guilty if the proof establishes that because of a mental illness the defendant was unable to control his actions or conform his conduct to the law. With the irresistible impulse test, the defendant may recognize his actions are wrong but cannot control them due to mental illness.
  • Durham/New Hampshire Test - A defendant is not guilty if the proof establishes that his crime was the product of a mental disease or defect. This is a "but for" test. A crime is a "product of" the disease if it would not have been committed but for the mental illness. It is a broad test and gives psychiatrists great latitude to testify about the defendant's mental condition. This test is controversial because it is very broad and thus is only used in a few jurisdictions.
  • Model Penal Code Test - Many jurisdictions in the United States are starting to adopt this test. It is a combination of the M'Naghten rule and the Irresistible Impulse test. Under this test, the defendant is entitled to a not guilty verdict if he suffered from a mental disease and as a result lacked substantial capacity to either: a) appreciate the criminality (wrongfulness) of his conduct; or (b) conform his conduct to the requirements of law.


If a defendant is acquitted as a result of the insanity defense, he is released. Because of the controversial nature of the plea, and the obvious concern about releasing a person who has committed a crime, many jurisdictions have adopted a "guilty but mentally ill" or "guilty by reason of insanity" plea. Under this plea, a defendant admits guilt and is sentenced to a mental health institution until he is judged able to return safely to society.

Infancy

The defendant was too young to be held criminally liable for the crime

Diminished responsibility

The defendant was mentally incapable of the intent required for the crime