The Insanity Defense

man arrested for a crime

The insanity defense has gotten a lot of attention over the years. This is not necessarily because it is such an effective strategy to defend against criminal liability, but instead because it has been involved in some high-profile cases and also prominently featured in a number of TV legal dramas. In reality, the insanity defense is complicated and difficult to effectively use. Four states will not even allow the insanity defense to be asserted. Kentucky, however, does allow for its use.

The Insanity Defense

It should be made clear that insanity is a legal construct as opposed to a clinical concept. The heart of the insanity defense is that, due to the defendant’s mental state at the time they committed a criminal act, they should not be held legally accountable for the results of that action. While the insanity defense seems to be well known, at least in passing, most do not realize that the majority of defendants who attempt to assert the insanity defense are unsuccessful and those who are average more time in a secure mental hospital than they would have spent imprisoned had they been convicted.

Should the defendant’s mental state at the time of the offense be in question, a psychological evaluation can be ordered to assess the defendant’s sanity or criminal responsibility. The request for testing can be made by the judge, defense, or prosecution. The standard used to assess whether someone is insane, in the legal sense, will vary depending on the jurisdiction. Kentucky follows the Model Penal Code rule, but that is not the case everywhere.

In addition to the Model Penal Code rule, there are a few other insanity standards employed across jurisdictions. Under the M’Naghten Rule, for instance, an individual may be found not guilty by reason of insanity should he or she have such a defect of reason, resulting from a disease of the mind, that the individual does not know the nature of the act committed. If the individual did know, then he did not know that the act was wrong. The irresistible impulse test, on the other hand, asserts that, even if the individual knows right from wrong, he or she was subject to the duress of such mental disease that the ability to decide between right or wrong was destroyed. The irresistible impulse test has often been criticized as providing too broad of a definition of insanity. Under the Model Penal Code rule, the one used in Kentucky courts, an individual will not be responsible for a criminal act if, at the time of the criminal act, the individual was suffering from such a mental disease or defect that there was no substantial capacity to understand or appreciate the criminal nature of the conduct or to comply with the requirements of the law.

Criminal Defense Attorney

At Dickman Law, we fight for our clients. We will assess your case and its specifics to develop the strongest defense strategy possible. Contact us today.

Posted in: Criminal Defense