October 11, 2022

How to Plead Insanity as Defense of a Criminal Charge

by Psych Times Staff

An insanity plea is a type of criminal defense strategy where the defendant pleads innocent of the crime by reason of insanity. The accused admits that they were involved in the crime or committed the crime; however, their defense is that they were not of sound mind at the time of the criminal act.

The insanity plea is different from diminished capacity, which is a defense strategy used to plead to a lesser crime. In contrast, in an insanity plea, the accused pleads not guilty and seeks to remove themselves entirely from the crime. In most cases, a successful insanity plea results in no criminal penalties, but the accused might be ordered to get mandatory treatment at a mental health facility. This might include confinement to the mental health facility, so the accused will not be set free until they prove to a judge that they are no longer insane.

According to Weber Law, a compelling argument in court by the defense attorney can significantly influence the case. Please continue reading to learn more about pleading insanity as a defense to a criminal act. 

How to Prove Insanity Under the Law?  

For an insanity plea to be successful, the defense has to prove that the accused had a persistent or episodic psychiatric condition or disease at the time of the crime. It is important to note that insanity does not necessarily have to be a mental health condition, it could also be the state of the mind of the accused at the time of the crime, such as acting out after a traumatic event. The defense has to prove the defendant was incapable of rational thinking and could not comprehend the nature of the crime they committed.  

To plead guilty as a defense of a criminal charge, the defense will have to use one or more types of methods to prove insanity. One such method is the M’Naghten Rule, which provides a framework for proving the cognitive inability of the accused. This allows the defense to prove that their client could not determine right from wrong as they were mentally unbalanced at the time of the criminal act.

There is also the Irresistible Impulse Test, which can be used to prove that the accused suffered from uncontrollable compulsion or an irresistible urge to commit the crime. Using this test, the defense can prove that there was no criminal intent and crime was simply an act of impulse that could not be controlled.

The defense must notify the prosecutor before the trial that they plan on using the insanity plea for the accused. In most cases, the prosecutor and the defendant obtain their own psychologists or psychiatrists to examine the accused. The insanity plea can be difficult to prove, especially if it is being used for a serious crime.

The likelihood of a court accepting an insanity plea is low, but there are cases where this law would apply. The burden of proof for an insanity plea will always be on the defense. The insanity plea is only used in 1% of cases that involve a felony charge. However, the chance of success can be greatly increased by hiring an experienced criminal attorney. 


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