Mental disorders affect millions of people and families across the U.S. Some are minor and do not affect a person's life to a great extent; others are debilitating and can require a person to be on medication indefinitely. With this in mind, it is possible that someone with a mental disorder and charged with a federal offense in Florida will assume they can plead insanity and escape conviction.
Readers of this blog have likely heard of the insanity defense, but many people do not understand the elements of it or when it might be used appropriately. In this post, we will take a closer look at this defense.
How insanity is defined
Insanity is defined in different ways that vary by jurisdiction. In Florida, to be considered legally insane, a person must either not know what he or she is doing or not know that what he or she is doing is wrong due to a "disease of mind". However, other states defined insanity as failure to control impulses by reason of mental disease, mental defect or failure to understand criminal acts due to a diagnosed mental defect. Federal courts define insanity as an inability to appreciate wrongfulness of actions by reason of severe mental disease or defect.
In federal court, the burden of proving insanity falls on the defense. This means that someone committed of a crime will need to provide clear and convincing evidence to support their claim of insanity.
What this defense means
Understand that being found not guilty by reason of insanity is not the same as being found not guilty. However, successful use of this defense can lead to reduced charges and penalties. Though, it can also require admittance to a hospital or psychiatric care facility.
Determining if this defense if appropriate
Assessing whether the insanity defense is appropriate and applicable for someone facing federal charges will depend on the specifics of the case. If you have questions or concerns about this or any other defenses, it would be wise to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney.