Hudson County Community College
The Insanity Defense: implications
When a court of law determines that a defendant is legally insane, it does not hold the defendant responsible for his actions. This defense is possible when an individual applies for an insanity defense. This places an argument that his actions were the result of a mental disorder during the time of the offense. This differs from a not guilty plea in that the defendant admits to the crimes, but requests the court not to hold him responsible for the actions. Another notable difference is that finding the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity does not mean offering a verdict of acquittal. Rather, the courts confine defendants who are legally insane to psychiatric hospitals for indefinite periods.
Insanity defense The use of the insanity defense in a court of law presents a compromise in part between the law and society. On one side, the society regards punishment as an essential means of altering criminal activities, and rehabilitating criminals. On the other hand, those with mental illnesses require treatment. The compromise arises when the society requires the law to halt the punishment of defendants who are incapable, albeit mentally, to control their conduct (Williams, 2003). However, for this to apply in a court of law, the defendant needs to meet three conditions. First, he has to prove that he did not understand that his actions were illegal, based on his mental disorder. Secondly, he needs to prove that he was unaware of what he was doing due to his mental disorder. Lastly, there is a need to prove that there was an irresistible force compelling one to commit the crime (Melville and Naimark, 2002).
Evidence must be compelling for the jury, or a court of law to accept this is a plea from the defendant. Credible expert testimony is of essence in this scenario. These experts expound on the mental illness, provide evidence of its existence in the individual, and show how it led the defendant into committing the crime (Schmalleger, 2001). As a tenet of the justice system, an individual commits a crime by virtual of the crime being intentional. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant intentionally committed the crime in full knowledge of the outcome. In this case, the defendant may argue using the insanity defense to prove that his illness was the key reason for his actions (Williams, 2003). The jury, on the other hand, does not determine the mental status of the individual; rather, it seeks to determine whether the expert testimony demonstrates this fact beyond any reproach.
Mental illness and disorder A plea of insanity, in its legal intent, does not aim at challenging the prosecutor’s claim that the defendant committed an illegal act. Rather, it is the presumption that the defendant was not in possession of the legally required mental state at the time of the crime. A criminal intent requires an accused person’s mental faculties as they knowingly and/or purposefully commit the said crime. Insanity defense provides a leeway for the defendant to argue that he did not have sufficient comprehension of his actions when committing the crime (Melville and Naimark, 2002). It is essential that one does not equate insanity with mental illness alone. One may be suffering from other psychological disorders during the time of the offense but is still not insane under legal definitions. Insanity, therefore, is a legal standard, not a medical standard. Though mental illness is a necessary prerequisite in the determination of the legal meanings of insanity, it does not independently constitute of insanity. There are varying degrees the jury will examine to prove whether the plea is sufficient or not (Schmalleger, 2001).
The essential distinction between being incompetent and