Although rarely used as a defense in a criminal case the insanity defense is one that an individual may use in their case to defend themselves against the crime they’ve been charged with committing. Oftentimes when the insanity defense is used it is used in a murder trial, however, this defense may be used in many other types of criminal cases as well including kidnapping, sexual assault or any other type of hideous crime.
Why Plead Insanity?
A person pleads insanity when they claim they lacked the mental competency to act rationally when the crime was committed. With this defense is used, the individual is stating they were unable to understand right from wrong at the time. An irresistible impulse is an alternative saying for the insanity defense. In addition to being proven insane, the individual at trial must be proven competent to stand trial at the time of the hearing.
An individual wishing to use the insanity defense during their trial must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they were medically insane when they committed their crime. Oftentimes there will be numerous interactions with mental health providers who ultimately determine whether or not the person was competent and able to stand trial.
More often than not, however, the insanity defense proves none to beneficial for those who use it. A study in the 1990s concluded that approximately 1% of all cases heard in the U.S. Judicial System used this defense, but less than ¼ of them resulted in an acquittal.
Oftentimes it is an individual who is misusing the insanity plea that causes these low numbers. Because your criminal lawyer must prove insanity through medical doctors, testing, etc. it is fairly difficult to ‘pull one over’ on these legal experts.
Insanity Acquittals: What does this mean?
Individuals who use the insanity plea and are successful at an acquittal on these grounds are those who usually have severe mental health disorders, such as schizophrenia. Even when an acquittal based on insanity is successful the individual is unlikely to walk out of the courtroom a free person. When someone wins a case based upon insanity, the judge is likely to order them to a state psychiatric hospital or commit them to other types of mental health treatment facilities. For some individuals, this is still a lifetime of imprisonment, since many are ordered to spend 10, 15, 20 or more years inside of these facilities.