LEARN WHEN THE INSANITY DEFENSE CAN BE USED TO DEFEND A CRIMINAL CASE IN LOS ANGELES
The insanity defense is not one that is used very often in criminal defense, however, when it is used under the appropriate circumstances it can be quite effective. The reason for this is because a person can not be found guilty of a crime if they were insane when they committed the acts that are subject matter of the crime. In every criminal case, the defendant must possess the necessary intent for the alleged offense (some crimes require a general intent, while others require a specific intent to do an act). In other words, they must have the intent to commit the act or acts which are necessary to commit the crime and actually know what they are doing. This element of intent can be negated if the defendant is operating from an altered state of mind where he or she can not distinguish between right and wrong.
This altered state of mind can occur for a number of different reasons. Sometimes the defendant is operating from a real mental illness (where their illness has effected them in such a way that they are either hallucinating or their mind does not have the ability do grasp reality), while other times they could be under the influence an hallucinogen that effects their ability to realize what they are doing. Voluntary intoxication can not be used as a defense in a general intent crime, however it can be used as a defense in a specific intent crime.
Courts and prosecutors will not let someone escape the ramifications of their actions just because they chose to become intoxicated and then committed a crime. However, there are circumstances where the fact that a person was intoxicated can mitigate a crime down to a lessor crime or even cause a more serious crime to be committed. Most of the determination in this area are based in common sense. However, you are always best served by consulting with an attorney who has defended these cases and can evaluate the facts of your case to the applicable law.
TEMPORARY VERSUS COMPLETE INSANITY
If someone is temporarily insane then their altered state of mind only lasts for a certain period of time. We see this a lot when someone either intentionally takes a drug (that causes them to hallucinate or go into a state where they do not know right from wrong) or are slipped a drug unknowingly that alters their state of mind. On the other hand, some people have a mental illness, like schizophrenia for example, that keeps them in a state where they can not possibly know right from wrong. When it comes to a mental illness defense, a medical doctor will be necessary to substantiate the illness and testify if necessary.
The way these mental issues are diagnosed is through the use of expert doctors who have knowledge, skill and training in the area of the mind and who have evaluated other persons who are alleged to have committed crimes and used a mental defense. In a case where is person appears to be insane at the time of their crime, doctors will be appointed by the judge to evaluate the defendant and make a determination as to whether they were sane at the time of the crime. If the two doctors disagree as to their findings, then the judge can appoint a third doctor to break the tie.
If someone is found not guilty by reason of insanity, then they are sent to a mental hospital to be housed until they regain their sanity and it is determined they are not a danger to society. this will require trained doctors giving them the ok to go back into society and then the judge making a final ruling on their sanity. Hence a person who is found not guilty by reason of insanity could conceivably spend the rest of their life in a mental institution if they never regain their sanity.
The Insanity defense is available as a means of altering the sentence issued by the court. In order to find a party legally insane, it must be proven that:
- At the time of committing the crime, the party had a mental disease or defect;
- Because of that disease or defect, they did not know or understand the nature and quality of their act or did not know or understand that their act was morally or legally wrong.
None of the following qualify as a mental disease or defect for the purposes of insanity defense: personality disorders, adjustment disorders, seizure disorders, or abnormal personality disorders that are only made apparent by a series of criminal or antisocial acts. Call Hedding Law Firm at (866) 986-2092 or email us using online contact form.