Guilty By Reason Of Insanity
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By whatever name, the principles behind the insanity defense are clear:. Concerns about public safety and the need for treatment usually remain after such an acquittal, but these concerns should be addressed through civil commitment -- involuntary treatment in mental hospitals until the danger has passed -- rather than through confinement in prison. Depending on the jurisdiction, courts use one or a combination of the following tests for legal insanity:. A few states don't allow the insanity defense against criminal charges, including Idaho, Kansas, Montana, and Utah.
Three of these states, with the exception of Kansas, allow "guilty but insane" verdicts, which often provide for institutionalization in lieu of prison. Only New Hampshire uses the Durham standard. Section 4. This formulation represents the consensus of American legal scholars on the appropriate scope of the insanity defense. The Clark Court relied on the fact that Arizona provided defendants with the defense of insanity in its second holding.
The standard of proof varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In accordance with the ALI-MPC insanity defense, the prosecution should then, in addition to proving beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual committed the crime in question, also have the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was not insane. All defendants must be informed of the consequences of any plea.
A defendant contesting a case is ordinarily is informed through his or her attorney. But since in Boykin v. Alabama , [vii] when a criminal defendant pleads guilty, the accused must be addressed personally and in open court.
While, unlike a guilty plea, a finding of NGRI is not a conviction and should not result in punishment, it often has substantial long-term consequences. People found not guilty by reason of insanity will often be confined longer than they would have been had they been found guilty.
It is not clear that most persons with serious mental illnesses will be safer and receive better care in a mental hospital than in a prison, where they probably will be segregated from the general prison environment. The treatment and confinement environment is what counts, not the label. Thus, respect for individual autonomy requires that the court have a dialogue with the defendant to establish that an NGRI plea represents an informed and free choice between difficult-to-predict confinement and treatment options. The likely length of confinement after an NGRI verdict, the likely treatment to be received, and the likely conditions of confinement are critical factors in deciding whether or not to invoke the insanity defense.
Just as courts must ensure that defendants are competent to plead guilty and are aware of the consequences, so too should courts ensure that defendants are competent to plead NGRI and are informed about the likely consequences of the plea. MHA recommends that juries be instructed on the consequences of a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity. Currently, most jurisdictions to not mandate that juries be instructed about the effects of an insanity acquittal.
The ABA Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards [xi] recommend that juries be fully instructed in order to level the playing field between different verdicts.
Most people are aware of the broad consequences of a criminal guilty verdict and a not guilty verdict. But the consequences of an insanity acquittal are varied and complicated. The average person is not aware of the effects of an NGRI acquittal, and therefore may make a decision based on community safety without being aware that most NGRI acquittees are usually hospitalized. While juries do not need to know the specifics of the hospitalization, knowing that acquittees will not be released until they are no longer a danger to themselves or others can help juries make the best decision based on the facts.
Insanity acquittees are subject to a variety of consequences.
Position Statement 57: In Support of the Insanity Defense
Among these are automatic commitment of insanity acquittees and release proceedings which differ from civil commitment. An individual who is acquitted on the basis of insanity should be treated. That is, the aim of the treatment should be to eventually release an individual into the community, not to punish that individual for a crime for which the defendant has been judged not morally culpable. Jones, U. MHA advocates that insanity acquittees be released as soon as a professional assessment shows they have no serious mental illness that makes them dangerous to themselves or others.
NGRI acquittees cannot be presumed to be dangerous or subject to ongoing mental illness under Foucha v. Louisiana [xv] and must be released after they are no longer mentally ill AND dangerous to self or others. Extended treatment periods may very well further legitimate goals, but the policy of long-term treatment after NGRI verdicts without a finding of ongoing mental illness causing danger to self or others increases the risk of treatment being used as a pretext for punishment. In order to protect against this, states should adopt rigorous release standards and procedures.
Review boards that are as independent of the criminal justice system are one mechanism to achieve this goal. The modern trend in states with a full insanity defense is toward use of such a civil system. Some states opt instead for a criminal justice model, placing procedural barriers to release after an NGRI verdict.
This is important for three reasons. First, with the possible exception of mental health courts because the criminal court is not adequately equipped to handle these psychiatric testimony and treatment alternatives in the way that a civil court is. Second, because once a finding of NGRI is made, acquittees are by definition acquitted and should no longer be involved with the criminal justice system, with all of its biases. Finally, third, by reinforcing the line between an NGRI acquittee and a person subject to civil commitment, it is less likely that NGRI acquittes will be treated punitively, rather than rehabilitated and guided to a recovery path.
NGRI acquittees are no more dangerous than civil committees, yet, according to a survey conducted by the New York Times , they are held for on average 73 times as long as a person subject to civil commitment for the same mental illness. The Times also reported that — in a contrary trend -- some states, like Tennessee, have opted not to automatically civilly commit insanity acquitees.
Tennessee requires post-acquittal evaluation of dangerousness on an outpatient basis. Despite public fears, defendants do not abuse the insanity defense. Finally, even after Foucha , there is a high likelihood of court-mandated confinement and involuntry treatment following an insanity acquittal, often lasting a substantial length of time, which serves protect the public from defendants who may be dangerous and also to discourage people from inappropriately using the defense.
The insanity defense is under-utilized due to the general failure to fully fund criminal defense lawyers for persons who are indigent. Over-worked and under-paid public defenders may not have the time, or sometimes the training, which would lead them to fully investigate whether an insanity defense is warranted and may lack the resources to retain a mental health expert whose opinion is essential to support the defense.
After the MPC was first promulgated, most states initially incorporated identical or substantially similar defenses into their laws. Since the late s, however, many states have taken action to limit their insanity defense laws and to bring them back toward pre-MPC formulations. Arizona, [xxiii] and denied certiorari in Delling v.
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MHA agrees with this dissenting position. MHA strongly opposes the popular, scientifically-unfounded belief that mental illness predisposes a person to act violently. To be guilty of a crime, a person must intend to do the act that the state seeks to punish. Thus far, the Supreme Court has held that a diminished capacity defense is not constitutionally guaranteed.
Insanity Defense | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness
But Mental Health America believes that people accused of crimes should be able to assert both mens rea and diminished capacity defenses at trial using expert psychological evidence. This is the position endorsed by the MPC. A diminished capacity defense is different from a mens rea defense, but the two overlap considerably and there is not always a clear distinction between the two. However, some courts have upheld state laws that interfere with this requirement.
Skip to Main Content. A defendant in a criminal case may enter a plea of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity.
After guilt is established by either a trial or a plea, a trial on the issue of sanity will proceed. In the trial, the burden is on the defendant to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she was legally insane at time of the crime. Legal insanity requires that the person, by reason of mental disease or defect was incapable of either: Knowing the nature of his or her act Understanding the nature of his or her act Distinguishing between right and wrong at the time of commission of the crime. Arrow Left Arrow Right.