If you suffer from significant mental health issues, your mental capacity at the time of an alleged crime may be used as part of your criminal defense trial strategy. Up until recently, two separate defenses existed based on mental capacity.
The first, “legal insanity,” provides a complete defense to criminal prosecution. Legal insanity is defined by the Michigan mental health code as an individual who, because of a mental illness or mental retardation, "lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his or her conduct, or to conform his or her conduct to the requirements of the law." If the court concludes that a person is “legally insane” then he or she may be acquitted of a crime.
The second defense, “diminished capacity,” was eliminated as a defense to crimes in 2011 by the Michigan Supreme Court. “Diminished capacity” generally applies to individuals who suffer from a “mental abnormality” that is less severe than “insanity.” However, even though “diminished capacity” may no longer serve as a defense to a crime, evidence of your mental condition at the time of an alleged crime may still be relevant to the outcome of your case.
At Grabel & Associates, our knowledgeable Michigan insanity defense attorneys are familiar with the complexities of mental health issues, when the insanity defense may be used and the role an individual’s mental health may play in developing a winning criminal defense strategy.
“Legal insanity” means that a person is not capable of forming the intent necessary to be found guilty of many crimes.
A person may be found legally insane where he or she lacks the ability to “appreciate the nature and quality” of his wrongful conduct as the result of a mental illness or mental retardation. A “mental illness” is defined as a substantial thought or mood disorder that impairs a person’s judgment, behavior, or capacity to recognize reality or cope with the ordinary demands of life. “Mental retardation” refers to significantly sub average intellectual functioning. If either of these conditions exist and make it so that a person simply doesn't understand that his or her actions are wrong then they may be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
The circumstances when a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer can raise the insanity defense are limited. In fact, many times a defendant or his or her family may think that it’s possible to raise the “insanity defense” such as where an individual has been diagnosed with a mental illness according to state health codes. However, the truth is it may only be successfully raised in specific instances involving severe instances of mental incapacity. Hiring an aggressive insanity defense lawyer who understands the exact nature of the defense and how to use it to help certain clients and when raising it is not in their best interest is critical to providing a vigorous defense.
Before Michigan criminal defense lawyers can raise the insanity defense at trial, they must follow certain guidelines. The first step is to provide notice to both the court and the prosecuting attorney the insanity defense will be asserted. After providing notice, the work to support the defense begins with mandatory psychiatric evaluations and consultations with the presiding judge.
At trial, criminal defense trial attorneys must prove by “a preponderance of the evidence” that the defendant meets the requirements of “legal insanity.” A preponderance of the evidence is the legal way of saying that “it is more likely than not” that a certain fact is true.
Further, one of the most common misperceptions about the “insanity defense” is that it lets people with mental illnesses “off the hook ”for crimes they have committed. This is not always the case. If a person is acquitted as the result of an insanity defense, they do not necessarily get to go free. They face possible confinement to a mental institution, are required to undergo numerous psychiatric tests and must be immediately committed to the Center for Forensic Psychiatry.
Despite this lingering misperception, Michigan criminal defense trial lawyers are prohibited from explaining to a jury that the “insanity defense” does not mean a person is set free.
Further if the court refuses to allow the insanity defense, a Michigan defense attorney is not allowed to insinuate that his client was not in his right mind at the time of the crime, or hint in any way that the defendant was legally insane.
The insanity defense is one of the most confusing and complex areas of criminal law and it takes an experienced criminal defense lawyer to ensure all the steps are taken to raise this complicated defense if it’s appropriate.
Mounting a successful insanity defense can be a very long and difficult process involving numerous hearings with the presiding judge and district attorney as well as multiple consultations with mental health doctors. In order to provide you the best opportunity for a favorable outcome, it is important to hire an experienced law firm that is dedicated to criminal defense. At the law firm of Grabel & Associates, our years of aggressive criminal defense provide invaluable insight into the best defense strategies to use in your case. Our dedicated Michigan criminal lawyers have learned what works from representing clients in nearly every court in every county of the state. Let us put our breadth of experience to work for you.
For a free consultation to discuss how an insanity defense lawyer from Grabel & Associates can help you, call us toll-free at1-800-342-7896, or you can use the contact form on this website to email our law firm.