When Is The Insanity Defense Appropriate?
If you are facing serious criminal charges, you may be convinced that with an insanity defense you can escape any serious jail time. While it may be true that you are plagued by ADHD, depression, schizophrenia, or other mental health issues, it’s important to understand that “crazy” behavior does not necessarily equate to legal insanity. And if you have the idea that you can fake insanity and then suddenly experience a miracle cure to get released, think again.
People use the word “crazy” to describe all sorts of otherwise inexplicable behavior. But to employ the insanity defense in a court of law, there are certain standards that must be met. The defense must demonstrate with a preponderance of evidence that a defendant was suffering from mental illness at the time the crime was committed, and that he was unable to comprehend the difference between right and wrong. That second part of the requirement is the most difficult. While demonstrating that a mental illness exists is often possible, it is pretty tough to show that a defendant didn’t understand the consequences of his actions or that the actions were wrong. Knowing the potential consequences for one’s behavior makes him legally responsible for them. Ergo, a claim of insanity as a defense is used in fewer than one percent of cases in this country. When it is used, research shows it to be successful just about one-fourth of the time.
When the Insanity Plea Works
For defendants for whom the insanity plea results in a favorable verdict—not guilty by reason of insanity—prison time may be avoided, but confinement is not. The fact of the matter is, when the insanity defense is successfully employed, defendants often spend more time locked up to receive mental health treatment than they would have spent in prison with a guilty verdict. They may be confined in a mental hospital or in the mental health ward of a prison, but under either circumstance, it is exceptionally restrictive. The patient is under the purview of the court and must receive court approval for any changes in placement. That includes outpatient living, halfway houses, and even day passes. If a patient is quickly and astoundingly cured? He must still serve the equivalent of a maximum sentence for the crime committed and can be released only after it is determined that he is no longer a threat to himself or others.
Other Issues and Options
For repeat offenders involved in less serious crimes, a Behavioral Health evaluation may qualify a defendant for Mental Health Court. In Maryland, defendants receive access to treatment and services, all under the supervision of the court. Participants must adhere to specific program requirements as they advance through a problem-solving approach to issues, evading jail time in an attempt to improve coping and survival skills.
The Best Defense for You
The La Plata and Waldorf criminal defense lawyers at the Law Office of Hammad S. Matin, P.A. are experienced in working with defendants with myriad issues and backgrounds. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, we aim to provide an intelligent, vigorous defense seeking the best possible outcomes. To discuss your situation, schedule a confidential consultation today.