Mental Health as a Criminal Defense — Part 2

Lawyer shaking hands

In my last blog post, we looked at the challenges of mental competency in a criminal case, and the difference between specific intent crimes and general intent crimes. Read more here.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the nuances of insanity pleas and the long-term implications for individuals found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Finding Equilibrium: Balancing Justice and Rehabilitation

Years ago, I represented a man who had experienced severe childhood trauma that involved witnessing his father kill his mother. As an adult, he became determined that his wife would never suffer like his mother did.

He was so committed to keeping his wife safe that he became extremely controlling: he wouldn’t let her leave the house, wouldn’t let her leave his sight. When a neighbor finally caught on, police were called, and the case went to trial.

When this man finally realized what he had done — that he was so dead-set on keeping his wife safe that he was actually hurting her — his level of remorse was off the charts. He would say to me, “I’m a horrible person, and I deserve to be punished. I don’t even want to try and defend myself.”

I raised to the Court that he was not competent to proceed because he was unwilling to assist me in his defense. He just wanted to plead guilty.

In the end, in my opinion, the very best outcome happened: the D.A. offered a favorable deal that involved my client attending extensive therapy, which turned out to be very good for him. He was able to work through his past trauma thanks to the Court-ordered mental health support.

Insanity Defense: A Pathway to Mental Health Institutions

There are certainly people dealing with very intense mental health issues, which is why it’s so important that we treat people rather than simply punish them. However, I am also convinced that there are a lot of people that raise the issue of mental health as an attempt to avoid consequences.

There’s one big problem with that: If the Court finds you not guilty by reason of insanity, you go to a mental institution until you’re deemed competent.

On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in Washington, D.C. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity. At the time, he was about 26 years old… and he lived in a mental institution until last year, when he was finally deemed competent.

A lot of people want to avoid the consequences of their conduct by claiming insanity, but it comes with the potential of ending up in a mental hospital forever. While it’s probably better than jail, it’s also probably not a great place to spend your life.

Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal charges, let’s talk. Call our office today at 303-449-1873 to schedule a complimentary consultation and find out if Barre Sakol is the right representative for your case.

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