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When the Insanity Defense Applies

  • Most people have at least heard this phrase in a movie or on TV: not guilty by reason of insanity. But what does that really mean?

    Does legal insanity mean you are so disturbed because you’re suffering from a mental disease or defect that you don’t know the difference between right and wrong?

    Example: A woman kills someone because she thinks angels told her it was the right thing to do. Is she insane and undeserving of punishment, or is she not?

    Experts don’t always agree.


    Tests for Insanity

    There are many tests for insanity, but we will look at one that supplies an alternate definition to the one stated above. The “irresistible impulse test” is based on the idea that a person who would otherwise be considered “normal” has encountered a situation so unbearable that he or she commits a criminal act.

    For example, a man catches his wife being intimate with another man and flies into a rage, killing them both.

    This is sometimes called a crime of passion, and many argue that the person was momentarily insane at the time the criminal act was committed.


    Insanity Defense Isn’t a Get-out-of-Jail-Free Card

    Both definitions can be argued in court, and you could try to use legal insanity in these situations as a defense. It’s important to note that, although people who are found not guilty by reason of insanity are excused both legally and morally from their crimes, that doesn’t mean they get away with no punishment whatsoever

    Those who use this defense almost always go to a mental institution for a very long time, sometimes for longer than they would have gone to jail had they been found guilty. In some states, a person must prove to a judge that he or she is no longer insane in order to be released from a mental hospital.


    Speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

    If you have any questions about the application of legal insanity as a defense in criminal cases, call a criminal defense lawyer from Tillman Braniff, PLLC. We are experienced criminal attorneys who will work diligently to form the best defense for you. Our number is 512-236-0505, but you can also get in touch via our website.