What do I need to know about the insanity defense?

| May 14, 2019 | Criminal Defense, Firm News |

Due in part to its popularity in crime fiction and on the big screen, many people in Ohio think of the insanity defense as a foolproof tactic when facing criminal charges. Unfortunately, this is far from true. The insanity defense is rarely used in court and its success rate is low. According to a Science Direct article, only 1 in every 1000 cases ever involve the insanity plea worldwide, with a success rate that varies from 25% to 50%.

If you have ever considered an insanity plea, note that you must first suffer from a mental disorder. However, what counts as an eligible mental disorder differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. One type of mental disorder that tends to be accepted in all jurisdictions, however, are those that lead to a loss of touch with reality. Some jurisdictions have also taken the step to create a list of mental disorders that do not qualify for the insanity plea. See a few of these below:

  •          Sexual perversions
  •          Personality disorders
  •          Voluntary intoxication
  •          Impulse-control disorders

Another important aspect of the insanity plea is being able to prove via a cognitive test that you do not understand the nature of the crime committed, or its consequences. Failing to note that the act was wrong would also be important to the case. For instance, a mother who suffers from a mental illness that compels her to drown her children to cast out the demons would be one extreme example.

Over the years, individuals and organizations have debated about whether or not the insanity defense inclusion should remain a part of the U.S. justice system. Many of those who want to abolish the inclusion refer to it as the rich man’s defense, because it is an expensive defense to maintain.

Those who support it point out that criminals who do not understand their actions should not face the same repercussions as criminals who do. However, it is well to note that contrary to popular opinion, the insanity plea may not result in a person walking free. Instead, they may be involuntarily confined at a psychiatric hospital for an undetermined number of years, until they are deemed safe for release.

This article was written for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.