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Can anyone use the insanity defense in a criminal case?

San Diego, CA |

It feels like I hear people using an insanity plea all the time to get away with crimes. Is insanity really that easy to claim?

Attorney Answers 4


  1. The quick answer to your question is no. The insanity defense plays out much different in real life than it does in the movies or on TV. In California the defendant has the burden to prove that he has 1. a disease of the mind (i.e. schizophrenia), 2. that caused a defect in reason, 3. so the defendant lacked the ability at the time to know the wrongfulness of his actions or understand the nature and quality of his actions.

    Here is a link with more info for you: http://law.jrank.org/pages/1136/Excuse-Insanity-Empirical-data-myths.html

    Legal disclaimer: My answers are only intended as general legal advice. They are not intended to create an attorney - client relationship.


  2. NO! Mr. Griffins response is correct.


  3. The insanity defense is incredibly complicated to make and, even if successful, will likely result in a lengthy stay at a mental health facility. Nevertheless, you should consult with a local defense attorney who is knowledgeable about mental health issues in criminal cases. Good luck.


  4. Insanity cases are very hard cases to win. I know this because i tried an insanity murder trial where my client had a settled mental illness and was found to be legally insane by 3 Drs but the jury still beleived he was SANE. Jurys think this is a loophole in the law and the burden of proof is on the Defense. That being said, this is not a loophole in the law and people dont use it to get away with crimes. There are people that are severely ill that have psychotic episodes and dellusions and auditory hallucinations telling them to kill someone. It is hard for a normal person to understand this and that is why these cases are hard.

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