How Do Insanity Pleas Work in Los Angeles, CA?

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The “insanity defense,” or the M’Naghten Rule, plays a huge role in television portrayals of criminal defense law. But how much of a role does it really play in a California criminal case? And is it a good defense?

It’s certainly invoked. In 2021 a man accused of fatally shooting two people inside of a movie theater pled not guilty by reason of insanity. But nationally it’s very rare: less than 1% of all national descendants use the insanity defense. 

Here’s what you need to know.

When You Plead Insanity You’re Admitting to the Crime

You can’t be found guilty of the crime, but you’re essentially saying that you did not understand the nature of your act and did not understand that what you were doing was morally wrong. 

You’ll need to prove by a preponderance of evidence (that is, more likely to be true than not) that you were insane at the time. The condition could be permanent or temporary. The defense bears the burden of proof. You’ll undergo a sanity hearing instead of a criminal trial. 

You cannot use the insanity defense if you were addicted to drugs or alcohol at the time that you committed the crime or had used them shortly before committing the crime. 

You can enter a dual plea: not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. In this case you’re saying you did not commit the crime, but if you did then you couldn’t have possibly understood the nature of the act or that it was morally wrong because you suffer from some mental condition that would have prevented it. You’ll go both through a criminal trial and, if you are found guilty at the criminal trial, through a separate sanity hearing. A sanity hearing will involve evaluations by professional psychiatrists and an evaluation of your mental health history. 

The Insanity Defense Can Backfire

In California, the law requires a person who has made an insanity defense to be committed to a state hospital

They will be confined and treated, either until they have regained sanity or until the maximum length of time for their crime has elapsed. It is not a get-out-of-jail free card. It mostly just changes the nature of the jail

Choosing the insanity defense is a strategy, one that should be carefully considered with the help of a dedicated criminal defense attorney. Often there are other defenses which will be stronger and will be less likely to result in lifelong consequences.

See also:

What To Do If You Get Arrested in Los Angeles, CA

When Should You Take a Plea Deal In Your Los Angeles, CA Criminal Case? 

What Does It Take to Get Criminal Charges Dropped in Los Angeles, CA? 

 

How Do Insanity Pleas Work in Los Angeles, CA?

inne-rpage-seperator

The “insanity defense,” or the M’Naghten Rule, plays a huge role in television portrayals of criminal defense law. But how much of a role does it really play in a California criminal case? And is it a good defense?

It’s certainly invoked. In 2021 a man accused of fatally shooting two people inside of a movie theater pled not guilty by reason of insanity. But nationally it’s very rare: less than 1% of all national descendants use the insanity defense. 

Here’s what you need to know.

When You Plead Insanity You’re Admitting to the Crime

You can’t be found guilty of the crime, but you’re essentially saying that you did not understand the nature of your act and did not understand that what you were doing was morally wrong. 

You’ll need to prove by a preponderance of evidence (that is, more likely to be true than not) that you were insane at the time. The condition could be permanent or temporary. The defense bears the burden of proof. You’ll undergo a sanity hearing instead of a criminal trial. 

You cannot use the insanity defense if you were addicted to drugs or alcohol at the time that you committed the crime or had used them shortly before committing the crime. 

You can enter a dual plea: not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. In this case you’re saying you did not commit the crime, but if you did then you couldn’t have possibly understood the nature of the act or that it was morally wrong because you suffer from some mental condition that would have prevented it. You’ll go both through a criminal trial and, if you are found guilty at the criminal trial, through a separate sanity hearing. A sanity hearing will involve evaluations by professional psychiatrists and an evaluation of your mental health history. 

The Insanity Defense Can Backfire

In California, the law requires a person who has made an insanity defense to be committed to a state hospital

They will be confined and treated, either until they have regained sanity or until the maximum length of time for their crime has elapsed. It is not a get-out-of-jail free card. It mostly just changes the nature of the jail

Choosing the insanity defense is a strategy, one that should be carefully considered with the help of a dedicated criminal defense attorney. Often there are other defenses which will be stronger and will be less likely to result in lifelong consequences.

See also:

What To Do If You Get Arrested in Los Angeles, CA

When Should You Take a Plea Deal In Your Los Angeles, CA Criminal Case? 

What Does It Take to Get Criminal Charges Dropped in Los Angeles, CA? 

 

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