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What is Not Guilty by Grounds of Insanity?

By Spodek Law Group | February 22, 2017
(Last Updated On: August 2, 2023)

Last Updated on: 2nd August 2023, 02:43 am

The Insanity Defense

If you’ve ever been to a court trial where the person has been accused of committing anything from murder to assault and the person seems to not have a clear mental state, then it could be an indication that there is something mentally wrong. This is the kind of person who might be able to be found not guilty by reason of insanity. There are a few considerations that need to be examined when this plea is used in court. It often takes a few doctors getting involved and the careful examination of the charges and the person who is on trial before the decision by the judge is given.

Availability of the Insanity Defense

One of the things to keep in mind is that some states don’t allow the insanity defense to be used, and if it’s used, there might be some crimes that don’t apply to this defense. In order to use the defense, the person must not have had any understanding that the crime was being committed at the time. The defendant must not know right from wrong while committing the crime. The crime could have been committed by uncontrollable circumstances which can be discussed by a psychologist or psychiatrist.

History of the Insanity Defense

Perhaps the first recorded time that the insanity defense was used in the world was in 1581. Records were written to stat that if a madman would kill someone, the person would not be found guilty because that person would have been insane. A “wild beast” test was developed in Britain in the 18th century as a way to better determine the mental state of the defendant before going to trial. The person understands the crime no better than a beast would or even an infant would not be found guilty, but it would only be because of an insanity defense. Another code was established in the 19th century in Britain. It’s called the M’Naughten Rule. This is a set of standards that are used in the United States when someone wants to use the insanity defense. This rule states that the defendant didn’t understand what was done. The person also didn’t understand the consequences of the decisions that were made. The cause for the actions is a disease of the mind.

Tests for Insanity

There is another test that is used that is called the “Irresistible Impulse” test. This is a test that concludes that the mental disease causes the dependent not to be able to control any impulses. These impulses then lead to the crime being committed. Many of the insanity defenses that are used are done so with murder cases. However, there are other crimes that an insanity defense can be used for, such as rape, armed robbery or arson.

Proving Insanity

The decision by the judge is based on the facts that are presented after the defendant talks with outside sources. The defendant can use a personal physician, but the prosecution will likely want to use a different doctor so that there are is more than one opinion and so that the results aren’t tainted. The “Durham Rule” is a clinical diagnosis for the person’s mental condition being the reason why the crime was committed. This rule is often used when the defendant has a severe mental illness, sometimes one that the person doesn’t know is there or that can’t be controlled unless it’s by using medication. Some people who have a mental illness and stop taking medications that are prescribed might see impulses flare compared to those who don’t take medications.

After an Insanity Verdict

After a not guilty by reason of insanity defense is delivered, the defendant might still need to seek therapy as ordered by the court. There are also times when the court might issue a requirement to seek in-patient treatment at a psychiatric hospital for the length of time that the jail sentence would have been. While getting a not guilty verdict because of being insane might sound like a good thing because the person wouldn’t be in jail or prison, it often means that the defendant still has restrictions on things that can be done in life, like working or even being at home for some time.

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